Astronaut Describes Coronavirus As 'Surreal' Ahead of Return Date to Earth

The crew of three returned to Earth on Friday after 205 days at the International Space Station.

Jessica Meir
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir waves before a launch to the International Space Station from the Gagarin's Start pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. . Photo: Sergei Savostyanov/Getty Images

After months at the International Space Station, astronauts Jessica Meir, Andrew Morgan, and Oleg Skripochka returned to Earth on Friday — but the world is looking a little different than how they left it due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We can watch news up here, and we've been talking to friends and families to try to paint a picture," Morgan said, ahead of their return, according to CNN. "But from up here, it's hard to understand what has transpired and how life will be different when we return."

The crew spent over 200 days in space — leaving well before COVID-19 rules existed — and were not able to extend their stay.

In a "Late Show with Stephen Colbert" interview this week, Meir explained, “Unfortunately our mission length is determined by the lifetime of our Soyuz spacecraft so we need to get back relatively quickly.”

Describing life in space while everyone else deals with the affects of COVID-19 she said, "It has been very surreal to experience this, to watch the situation unfold on the ground of this global's a little bit difficult for us to believe that we are truly going back to a different planet."

However, given that Meir and the crew were in isolation at the ISS, she gave people on Earth some tips as we deal with life in quarantine.

"Some of the things that help us up here are to continue to get our daily exercise, to keep to a schedule and routine, to make sure that we're playing nicely with others; to treat each other well, kindly [and] with respect and also to keep having little bit of fun, I think thats very funny for your psychological well-being," she said.

The astronauts landed at a spaceport in Kazakhstan, to a planet and landing protocols that look very different from what they left.

Typical Earth-landing procedures for astronauts include medical checks wherein the astronauts’ health is continually monitored. Now, with the pandemic, the checks will be even more rigorous.

"NASA will closely adhere to the CDC's recommendations on infection control for the coronavirus as Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir return to Earth and begin their post-flight medical testing and re-adaptation period," Courtney Beasley, communications specialist at NASA's Johnson Space Center, said in a statement. "This includes cleaning of surfaces, social distancing, emphasizing hand hygiene, encouraging NASA team members who are sick to stay home and limiting contact with the crew members."

Earlier this month, three astronauts landed at the ISS to trade off positions. Before these astronauts could launch into space, they underwent month-long quarantines to ensure they wouldn’t become infected with COVID-19 before lift-off.

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