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Astronauts returning to changed world after months in space

Their mission ends next Friday.

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Astronaut Jessica Meir with Andrew Morgan and Chris Cassidy (Nasa via AP)

Astronaut Jessica Meir with Andrew Morgan and Chris Cassidy (Nasa via AP)

Astronaut Jessica Meir with Andrew Morgan and Chris Cassidy (Nasa via AP)

Two Nasa astronauts have said they expect it will be tough returning to such a drastically changed world next week, after more than half a year at the International Space Station.

Andrew Morgan said the crew has tried to keep on top of the pandemic news.

But it is hard to comprehend what is really going on and what to expect, he said, when his nine-month mission ends next Friday.

It is quite surreal for us to see this whole situation unfolding on the planet belowJessica Meir, astronaut

“It is quite surreal for us to see this whole situation unfolding on the planet below,” said Jessica Meir, who took part in the first all-female spacewalk last autumn.

“We can tell you that the Earth still looks just as stunning as always from up here, so it’s difficult to believe all the changes that have taken place since both of us have been up here.”

As an emergency physician in the army, Mr Morgan said he feels a little guilty coming back midway through the medical crisis.

“It’s very hard to fathom,” he told reporters.

Ms Meir said it will be difficult not being able to hug family and friends, after seven months off the planet. She anticipates feeling even more isolated on Earth than in space.

“We’re so busy with so many other amazing pursuits and we have this incredible vantage point of the Earth below, that we don’t really feel as much of that isolation,” she said.

“So we’ll see how it goes and how I adjust. But it will, of course, be wonderful to see some family and friends, at least virtually and from a distance for now.”

Mr Morgan flew to the space station last July, and Ms Meir last September. They will return in a Soyuz capsule with Russian Oleg Skripochka, landing in Kazakhstan. Their departure will leave three astronauts, who arrived on Thursday, on board.

The three will return exactly 50 years after the Apollo 13 astronauts splashed down in the Pacific. An oxygen tank explosion aborted the moon-landing mission.

“Once again, now there’s a crisis and the crisis is on Earth,” Mr Morgan said.

PA