Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft returns to Earth amid strict coronavirus measures
Moscow, Apr 17 (efe-epa).- The Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft, carrying three crew members of the International Space Station (ISS), successfully landed on the Kazakh steppe Friday, amid strict health security measures in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The reentry capsule landed at 05.16 am GMT southeast of the Kazakh city of Zhezqazghan with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and NASA’s American astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir on board, according to the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
Due to technical limitations linked to the coronavirus situation, the landing was not broadcast live from the landing site.
The capsule landed just over three hours after it disconnected from the ISS.
Eight Mi-8MTV5-1 helicopters, An-12 and An-26 aircrafts and 19 special ground equipment units, including five Blue Bird search and rescue vehicles were involved in securing the Soyuz MS-15 landing, according to Russian agencies.
The welcome ceremony was toned down compared to earlier occasions due to the strict precautions in place over the COVID-19 health crisis.
Contacts with the team were reduced to the minimum required and all search and rescue teams deployed to receive crew members were previously tested for the coronavirus, according to the agency Interfax.
The first to leave the capsule, as per protocol, was Skripochka, in his capacity as commander.
The medical team, wearing gloves and masks, attended to him, while other members of the rescue team were asked to maintain the social distance required as per the precautionary measures.
A smiling Jessica Meir was then evacuated from the reentry capsule and received by NASA doctors, while Morgan was the last to come out.
The crew was then scheduled to board Russian Mi-8 helicopters for a two and a half-hour flight to the recovery center in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
Morgan and Meir will then travel on a NASA plane to Houston, while Skripochka will return to a training base near Moscow, where he will be put under medical observation due to the coronavirus epidemic.
Morgan had been in space for 272 days and his mission began on July 20, when he traveled to the ISS aboard Soyuz MS-13 along with Russia’s Alexandr Skortsov and the Italian Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency.
On his first space mission, Morgan contributed to hundreds of experiments in Biology, Earth Science, Human Research, Physics and Technology Development, according to NASA.
He also made seven spacewalks totaling 45 hours and 48 minutes.
Skripochka – who completed his third space flight and has an accumulated 536 days in orbit – and Meir in turn arrived the ISS aboard Soyuz MS-15 on Sep. 25, and landed on Earth after 205 days in space.
During her first stay on the ISS, Meir made the first all-female spacewalk with her NASA colleague Christina Koch, marking a historic moment for the American space agency as well as the world.
The three newly returned crew members have left behind in the ISS American astronaut Chris Cassidy, who assumed command of the orbital platform from Skripochka, and the Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. EFE-EPA