NASA is supplementing its standard protocols and processes for ensuring the health of the astronauts meant to take part in the initial commercial crew spaceflight program with added measures designed to protect them against the possibility of contracting COVID-19, Business Insider reports. It’s standard practice for the U.S. space agency to institute practices designed to reduce the chances any crew flying to space will contract any illnesses on the ground prior to their trip, but extra steps are now in place to specifically address coronavirus risks.
BI’s report notes the added measures in place in addition to the standard two-week quarantine leading up to the commercial crew mission, which is currently set to take place sometime in either April, May or June aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. These include an improved emphasis on surface cleaning and disinfection, social distancing and hand cleaning, all of which is in keeping with the CDC’s recommendations when it comes to prevention among the general population.
NASA has also suspended tours at the facilities where the astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, undergo training ahead of their flight, and to further limit potential exposure, it’s asking its own staff to say home if they have any feeling that they might potentially be sick.
The health of anyone tasked with traveling to and working while in space is obviously paramount. NASA’s existing procedures, which include extensive testing and monitoring leading up to the actual flights, have a great track record of preventing anyone from taking any unwanted viral guests on their trips to space. Coronavirus may present a new challenge to the agency’s precautionary measures, but it shouldn’t functionally differ all that much from the other viral illnesses that astronauts typically seek to avoid before a mission.