Skip to main content

Astronauts enter a routine quarantine for historic SpaceX Crew Dragon launch

NASA astronauts Bob Behknen (left) and Doug Hurley will be the first to fly on SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft during the Demo-2 mission. It could launch in Spring 2020.
NASA astronauts Bob Behknen (left) and Doug Hurley will be the first to fly on SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft during the Demo-2 mission. It could launch in Spring 2020.
(Image: © SpaceX)

Two NASA astronauts entered quarantine today (May 13) to prepare for a historic launch to space on a SpaceX spacecraft.

Astronauts Robert "Bob" Behnken and Douglas "Doug" Hurley entered a pre-flight quarantine today as they get ready to launch to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon vehicle as part of SpaceX's Demo-2 mission. This mission, scheduled to launch later this month on May 27 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, will be the first crewed mission for the vehicle and will be the first crewed mission to orbit since NASA's Space Shuttle program ended in 2011. 

Two weeks before liftoff, Behnken and Hurley entered this quarantine, known officially as "flight crew health stabilization," to ensure that they will be healthy and will not carry any contagious illnesses to the space station. Although people all around the world are currently living in various forms of quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the astronauts' new constraints are standard. 

Related: SpaceX's historic Demo-2 test flight in photos

Quarantine has been a routine part of crewed launches since the early days of the Apollo program to ensure crew safety.

For crewed Soyuz launches taking off from Kazakhstan, astronauts enter pre-flight quarantine near the launch site. But with this launch, the astronauts have options when it comes to where they will complete this quarantine, according to a NASA statement

Astronauts who are able to maintain quarantine conditions at home can stay at home until they leave for KSC, where they must report on May 20. However, if they can't maintain quarantine conditions at home, they can stay at NASA's Astronaut Quarantine Facility at Johnson Space Center before they go to KSC. 

Related: How SpaceX's Crew Dragon space capsule works (infographic)

While it might seem appealing for astronauts to stay home, their home can't be considered suitable for quarantine if they have family members coming and going; for example, if they live with people who have to go to work or school on site, they would not be able to quarantine at home. 

Although the pre-flight quarantine is standard procedure for crewed spaceflight, additional measures are being taken to ensure the safety of the launch during a global pandemic, according to the NASA statement. Anyone who has to interact with Hurley and Behnken during the quarantine period will have their temperature taken and be screened for any symptoms of COVID-19, according to the statement. Additionally, both astronauts, as well as those who will be in direct contact with them, will be tested twice for the virus prior to launch. 

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

OFFER: Save 45% on 'All About Space' 'How it Works' and 'All About History'!

For a limited time, you can take out a digital subscription to any of our best-selling science magazines for just $2.38 per month, or 45% off the standard price for the first three months.View Deal

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

  • Saracen1955
    In the final paragraph, the phrase "Global pandemic" is redundant. A pandemic is, by definition, global. When a disease is declared to be a pandemic, it means that there are cases of that disease on every continent of the world, thus it is global. Pandemic does NOT mean "Zombie Apocalypse".
    Reply
  • paperpushermj
    Saracen1955 said:
    In the final paragraph, the phrase "Global pandemic" is redundant. A pandemic is, by definition, global. When a disease is declared to be a pandemic, it means that there are cases of that disease on every continent of the world, thus it is global. Pandemic does NOT mean "Zombie Apocalypse".
    Remind me not to say... Child Prodigy around you
    Reply
  • o5dkelly
    Saracen1955 said:
    In the final paragraph, the phrase "Global pandemic" is redundant. A pandemic is, by definition, global. When a disease is declared to be a pandemic, it means that there are cases of that disease on every continent of the world, thus it is global. Pandemic does NOT mean "Zombie Apocalypse".
    Does, too. Does, too.
    Reply
  • dennisma
    Saracen1955 said:
    In the final paragraph, the phrase "Global pandemic" is redundant. A pandemic is, by definition, global. When a disease is declared to be a pandemic, it means that there are cases of that disease on every continent of the world, thus it is global. Pandemic does NOT mean "Zombie Apocalypse".

    I'm sorry but you are sort of incorrect in your definition... depending on whom you ask,

    Merriam Webster defines a pandemic as :" an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population." https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pandemic
    That doesn't mean global.

    The Oxford dictionary also defines it as "a disease that spreads over a whole country or the whole world".
    https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/pandemic
    Again not global just a very large area.

    The WHO uses the term to mean it is global... but even the term 'global' isn't what one may think. For example
    in a WebMD article they cite a WHO spokesperson:

    "A pandemic is basically a global epidemic -- an epidemic that spreads to more than one continent," says Dan Epstein, a spokesman for the Pan American Health Organization, a regional office of the World Health Organization.
    Spreading to more than one continent, say North and South America only, isn't truly global though as it leaves out Africa, Europe and Asia. To be truly global it should affect these continents as well.

    https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/what-is-pandemic#1
    Reply