'I'm in awe': NASA astronaut salutes coronavirus-fighting doctors and nurses from orbit

NASA astronaut Drew Morgan, himself a medical doctor, tweeted a tribute on March 30, 2020 — National Doctors’ Day — to the healthcare workers battling the coronavirus pandemic.
NASA astronaut Drew Morgan, himself a medical doctor, tweeted a tribute on March 30, 2020 — National Doctors’ Day — to the healthcare workers battling the coronavirus pandemic. (Image credit: Drew Morgan via Twitter)

Healthcare workers battling the coronavirus pandemic just got an off-Earth shout-out on National Doctors' Day.

NASA astronaut Drew Morgan, a medical doctor who's one of the three people currently living aboard the International Space Station (ISS), tweeted his appreciation today (March 30) to the brave doctors, nurses, medical technicians and other people on the front lines of the war against the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19

"As a medical doctor looking back on our planet on #NationalDoctorsDay, I think of the healthcare professionals & volunteers that are risking their lives in this crisis. We're at our best when we help each other. I'm in awe of your selfless service. Thank you from @Space_Station," Morgan said via Twitter today. This was the text accompanying a photo of himself and a floating stethoscope in the station's cupola, with Earth in the background.

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Healthcare workers are indeed risking their lives to treat COVID-19 patients. For example, medical professionals make up almost 14% of Spain's confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the New York Times. And COVID-19 is raging through the healthcare workforce in New York City, which has been hit particularly hard by the outbreak. A "doctor at a major New York City hospital described it as 'a petri dish,' where more than 200 workers had fallen sick," the Times' Michael Schwirtz wrote in a story today.

As of today, there are more than 740,000 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide and more than 35,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Morgan's two companions aboard the ISS are fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, commander of the current Expedition 62. The trio will soon be joined by three colleagues: NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner are scheduled to launch toward the orbiting lab aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on April 9.

National Doctors' Day is celebrated in the United States every year on March 30 (though some countries use a different date). The first such observance was held in Georgia in 1933, according to the website doctorsday.org.

"On March 30, 1958, a Resolution Commemorating Doctors' Day was adopted by the United States House of Representatives," the website reads. "In 1990, legislation was introduced in the House and Senate to establish a national Doctors' Day. Following overwhelming approval by the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, on Oct. 30, 1990, President George Bush signed S.J. RES. #366 (which became Public Law 101-473) designating March 30 as 'National Doctors' Day.'"

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.

  • Hari
    Amazed the crew of Meir, Morgan and Skripochka haven't refused to return to plague planet Earth. Yes, Soyuz MS 16 is launching soon with their Russian-U.S. replacements and Soyuz MS 15 is nearing the end of its life, but is it anymore riskier staying on board ISS than Wuhan Coronavirus? They could conceivably stay till SpaceX Crew Dragon arrives with the American test crew plus 3 additional seats for the return journey. Roscosmos and NASA should have seriously considered launching Soyuz MS 16 unmanned as a new lifeboat in these hazardous times.