ALMATY (Reuters) – NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir will take an unusual – and more exhausting – route home after they safely landed in the steppes of Kazakhstan on Friday, a Russian health official said, due to blockages caused By the new coronavirus.
A capsule with Morgan, Meir and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka arrived in the southeastern Kazakh city of Dzhezkazgan at 1117 local time, as scheduled, after nine months at the International Space Station.
But since all Kazakhstan provinces are blocked by coronavirus, search and rescue teams have been unable to establish a base in Dzhezkazgan or in the center of Karaganda province, said Vyacheslav Rogozhnikov, deputy head of Russia's Federal Agency for Medical Biology.
Instead, the Baikonur cosmodrome, located in Kazakhstan and leased by Russia, was used as a base and the crew of the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft will go there after it has been extracted from the capsule, Rogozhkin said in an interview broadcast online by the space agency Russian Roscosmos.
From Baikonur, American astronauts will take a 300 km journey to the city of Kzylorda, where they will board a NASA aircraft, he said, adding hours of exhausting ground travel after 205 days in space, 3,280 Earth orbits and a trip 86.9 million miles.
Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by David Goodman
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