NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley rehearses placing on his SpaceX spacesuit within the Astronaut Crew Quarters contained in the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Constructing on the Kennedy Area Heart forward of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the Worldwide Area Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S. Could 23, 2020.
Kim Shiflett | NASA | Reuters
SpaceX launched individuals to house for the primary time in Could 2020, just a few months after the Covid pandemic started to unfold throughout america, and Elon Musk’s firm added quarantine precautions to guard NASA’s astronauts within the weeks earlier than launch, based on analysis not too long ago printed in an educational journal.
NASA has had its Flight Crew Well being Stabilization program in place for many years, which was initially created throughout the Nineteen Sixties Gemini missions and matured throughout the Apollo missions.
SpaceX’s Demo-2 launch, carrying astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, was the primary time a personal firm tailored NASA’s program for a mission. Former NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine defined to CNBC in April 2020 a number of the measures the company and firm have been taking to guard the astronauts. SpaceX launched the pair to the Worldwide Area Station on Could 30, 2020, and returned them safely on Aug. 2, 2020.
“The industrial implementation of the NASA Well being Stabilization Program by SpaceX with changes required throughout the COVID-19 pandemic was a hit, with protocols permitting identification and elimination of doubtless infectious individuals from this system,” the report mentioned.
The report was printed in the July version of the journal of Aerospace Drugs and Human Efficiency. Authors of the report featured engineers at SpaceX – together with Musk himself – in addition to representatives at NASA’s Johnson Area Heart, Massachusetts Basic Hospital, and the colleges of drugs at Dartmouth, Stanford, the College of Arizona and extra.
NASA’s present program features a flight crew quarantine starting 14 days earlier than launch, to restrict interplay with others to solely those that are often known as “main contacts.” The report mentioned 91 SpaceX workers have been entered as main contacts into the corporate’s adaptation of NASA’s well being stabilization program,
Forty-five days earlier than launch, SpaceX started distributing well being screening questionnaires to potential main contacts. Twenty-eight days earlier than launch, SpaceX started a every day morning survey, with 25 inquiries to test for signs of Covid. The SpaceX flight surgeon acquired the outcomes of the survey for overview every evening and adopted up with anybody who reported new signs. The report mentioned the survey had a 93.4% common every day response charge.
The report famous that 2,720 surveys have been accomplished pre-launch, with 198, or 7.3%, returning with potential signs of Covid – with the commonest being joint ache, cough, sneezing, stomach ache, or headache. In the course of the surveying interval, 22 workers have been contacted by the SpaceX flight surgeon, and 5 of these workers have been reexamined.
“All exams have been unremarkable and extra COVID-19 RT-PCR testing was carried out on two of the 5 people, who examined detrimental and returned to obligation,” the report mentioned, referring to a reverse transcription polymerase chain response take a look at.
Two others have been faraway from this system “for potential infectious illness,” the report famous, however “each had continual medical situations which have been tough to differentiate from infectious illness.”
SpaceX headquarters in Los Angeles, California.
AaronP/Bauer-Griffin | GC Pictures | Getty Pictures
SpaceX created a “closed-loop system” for interactions with the NASA crew, together with flying solely by company or personal plane, sterilized automobiles, a personal entrance to the SpaceX coaching middle, and required face masks and temperature checks. Any SpaceX personnel who would are available “shut contact” with the astronauts additionally accomplished PCR testing 48 hours earlier than.
The report concluded that SpaceX’s precautions have been profitable, however famous it may very well be improved by means of higher “monitoring of areas that have been accessible to personnel not below [health stabilization program] protocol.” NASA’s launchpad 39A “was accessed by sure personnel who weren’t taking part” in this system, which created “a possible level of transmission.”
“As well as, additional analysis is required to adapt [Health Stabilization Program] protocols for pandemic environments when the prevalence of illness in the neighborhood is excessive,” the report famous.