Three people escaped Earth’s gravity on Thursday, when NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of Roscomos flew from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station.
The Soyuz spacecraft launched successfully at 1:05 a.m. PT, bringing the spacefarers safely into orbit on their six-hour journey to the space station. The NASA TV livestream will return for the ISS docking procedure starting at 6:30 a.m. PT and the hatch opening at 9 a.m. PT.
It’s standard procedure to quarantine ISS travelers for two weeks prior to launch. This is even more critical considering the global COVID-19 pandemic. “This process ensures that they aren’t sick or incubating an illness when they get to the space station and is called ‘health stabilization,'” NASA said in a March statement on how it’s handling coronavirus precautions.
Cassidy was able to spend time with his wife in Kazakhstan last month before going into more strict isolation. “I really haven’t been around anybody else, so it’d be really, really strange if I did contract something,” Cassidy told CNET sister site CBS News in late March.
Cassidy and his colleagues will join three current crew members on the ISS. The incumbent station residents (Roscosmos’s Oleg Skripochka and NASA’s Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan) are set to return to Earth on April 17.
That will once again leave the ISS with a crew of three until NASA andas early as mid-May. This will be the first time astronauts have flown from US soil since 2011.
Until then, it’s business as usual with the Russian Soyuz launch on Thursday.