The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has affected the SpaceX's first human commercial spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA. Due to the major health issue, both NASA and SpaceX have implemented various precautions to ensure the safety of astronauts and everyone involved in the upcoming mission.
The launch of the Crew Dragon capsule's Demo 2 mission is scheduled to take place on May 27. It will mark the first time that SpaceX will transport astronauts for NASA to the ISS.
Special quarantine protocols
Although the mission is still scheduled to launch as planned, there have been a few major changes regarding certain procedures of the project. These changes were mainly caused by safety protocols implemented in response to the COVID-19 outbreak happening in the U.S. and different parts of the world. One of the main effects of the outbreak is the additional quarantine protocols for the launch.
As noted by NASA, astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are currently following strict quarantine procedures in preparation for the launch. Even during training procedures, the two astronauts are minimizing their contact with other people to prevent carrying the disease to the ISS.
"We knew it was going to be tough getting ready for launch, but then in this new environment we had to take even more precautions," Kathy Lueders of NASA's Commercial Crew Program said during a news conference according to Space.com. "Because it's really about not only Bob and Doug's safety, but it's also about the safety of the crew aboard the International Space Station."
Social distancing during the launch
Aside from quarantine protocols, NASA and SpaceX will also implement social distancing during the launch of the Demo 2 mission. Usually, people flock to launch facilities watch SpaceX and NASA missions take off.
Since the upcoming mission will be the first time that SpaceX will ferry astronauts for NASA, it is considered as a major event in the history of spaceflight. Unfortunately, due to the disease outbreak, both SpaceX and NASA are urging the public to watch the Demo 2 launch from their homes.
Even the family and friends of the astronauts will not be able to watch the launch live. "It certainly is a disappointing aspect of all this pandemic, is the fact that we won't have the luxury of our family and friends being there at [the Kennedy Space Center] to watch the launch," Hurley said during the news conference. "But obviously it's the right thing to do in the current environment."