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Astronauts grounded in Russia's Star City over virus
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) March 12, 2020

Astronauts awaiting a space mission are banned from leaving Star City training centre outside Moscow due to the novel coronavirus and will skip traditional pre-launch rituals, the centre's head said Thursday.

The next launch to the International Space Station is due to blast off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan on April 9 with Russian cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy on board.

Pavel Vlasov, the head of Star City, where all astronauts prepare for missions, said that "quarantine for the crews started earlier than usual," referring to the astronauts and the reserve crew.

Astronauts go into quarantine routinely ahead of space missions and give a final press conference at Baikonur from behind a glass wall to protect them from infection.

Vlasov said this procedure was speeded up because of the coronavirus pandemic. So far there have been 28 confirmed cases in Russia, most of them in Moscow.

Quoted on Star City's website, Vlasov said: "The crews are not making any trips out, even such traditional ones as visiting the Kremlin wall and the house of Sergei Korolyov on the eve of departure for Baikonur."

The first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, is buried beside the Kremlin wall, making this a highly symbolic part of preparations. The house-museum of Korolyov, who was the brilliant engineer behind the first space launch, is in northern Moscow.

Vlasov said group tours of Star City have also been cancelled.

Astronauts have been allowed out until recently.

Cassidy posted an image of himself at a street festival in central Moscow on Instagram on Monday.

The International Space Station is currently clear of the virus as the last manned spacecraft docked there in September.

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Life support upgrades arrive at station, improve reliability for Moon, Mars Missions
Huntsville AL (SPX) Mar 10, 2020
NASA delivered upgraded life support hardware to the International Space Station March 9 aboard SpaceX's 20th resupply mission. Improving life support with reliable systems will help enable human exploration to the Moon and Mars. Building on experience gained at the space station over the last 20 years, NASA will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 through the Artemis program and prepare to extend humanity farther into the solar system. The station's water recovery system p ... read more

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