The Safest Place to Hide From the Coronavirus: Space?

The COVID-19 pandemic is worsening by the day and has now unfold everywhere in the world with greater than 190,000 reported circumstances. In instances like these, it could seem to be the virus is inescapable, however there’s one place the place it almost certainly won’t attain: the International Space Station (ISS).

The area station—which orbits the Earth at an altitude of round 250 miles—is collectively operated by the area companies of the U.S., Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada. The Russian area company Roscosmos leads the preparation for launches of Soyuz, the one spacecraft able to carrying astronauts to and from the station. But how does the ISS program hold crew members secure from probably harmful pathogens?

Before launching astronauts to the ISS, nice care is already taken to stop the crew from bringing probably harmful viruses and pathogens on board with them, so the novel coronavirus outbreak just isn’t presently having a lot of an affect on security procedures.

“Prior to launching to the International Space Station, the crew is quarantined and observed for any potential symptoms and tested,” Luis Zea, a researcher from BioServe Space Technologies on the University of Colorado Boulder, informed Newsweeok. “This serves as a great filter.”

NASA says it applies these quarantine measures to all of its astronauts earlier than they’re despatched to the area station within the Soyuz capsule—which is launched from Kazakhstan.

“NASA takes steps to prevent the crew from bringing illnesses like the cold or flu to the International Space Station,” Courtney Beasley, a spokesperson for the area company, informed Newsweek. “All of our crew have to stay in quarantine for two weeks before they launch. This makes sure that they aren’t sick, or incubating an illness, when they get to the International Space Station and is called ‘health stabilization.’ It’s an important part of protecting crew health.”

But the protecting measures do not cease there. According to Beasley, the ISS Program additionally has “very effective” processes in place to stop disease-causing pathogens from being transported to the station by way of cargo missions.

“Currently, items that go to Station are cleaned but not necessarily ‘sterilized’—which is something done for probes going to other planetary bodies to ensure we are not contaminating them with Earth cells or organisms,” Zea mentioned. Cleaning and sterilization are associated however no the identical factor.”

“Items that go as much as Station are totally cleaned and typically, relying on the merchandise itself, could also be sterilized. However, a stringent requirement for sterilization exists for spacecraft that may land on different celestial our bodies to make sure that, sooner or later once we ‘sniff’ extra molecules indicative of potential life, we’re not sniffing one thing {that a} earlier spacecraft introduced into that planet. In the case of the ISS, microbes journey with the crew, prefer it or not. In reality, a human has extra bacterial cells in and on their physique than their very own cells, so it would not matter the place we go, micro organism will accompany us,” he said.

Taken together, these quarantine and cleaning measures make it very unlikely that disease-causing pathogens will infect astronauts onboard the ISS, even in the context of the latest outbreak, according to Zea.

ISS, International Space Station
A view of the International Space Station.

“I would say that, regarding coronavirus, the ISS is probably one of the safest places to be at this point,” he mentioned. “This comes from the fact that the novel coronavirus can only survive for short periods of time on surfaces and an infected person would likely be screened and diagnosed during the quarantine period astronauts go through prior to launch.”

“NASA and our international partners on ISS have made great investments on the Space Station and are very cautious to ensure the safety of the crew and Station. For example, when payload developers such as where I work, BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado Boulder, send hardware or an experiment to Station, we must demonstrate via tests results etcetera, that the crew and Station will be safe at all times,” he mentioned. “I think NASA has done a really good job in protecting astronauts and the Space Station.”

Nevertheless, all astronauts bear medical emergency coaching and keep common contact with a staff of docs on the bottom who intently monitor their well being. And within the occasion {that a} medical emergency does happen, the crew have processes in place to cope with the scenario.

“There are always enough ‘lifeboats’ [Russian Soyuz spacecraft] docked to the ISS to ensure all of the crew could promptly evacuate should there be a need to do so,” Zea mentioned. “There are protocols in place for what to do should an astronaut fall ill on Station, which includes them boarding a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and returning to Earth, landing in Kazakhstan.”

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