On the 50th anniversary of a crisis in space, three astronauts returned to a planet in the midst of a crisis all its own. It had been 205 days since NASA's Jessica Meir and Roscosmos' Oleg Skripochka stepped foot on Earth, and 272 days for NASA's Andrew Morgan. All three landed "safe and sound" Friday morning near Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, NASA said in a tweet. The Soyuz MS-15 crew landing marked 50 years since the Apollo 13 crew landed safely back on Earth after aborting a lunar landing made impossible by an oxygen tank explosion. During a press conference last week, Morgan said the astronauts were keeping up with news reports and "talking to friends and families to try to paint a picture" of a world in isolation as a result of the novel coronavirus, per CNN.
"But from up here, it's hard to understand what has transpired and how life will be different when we return," said Morgan. With the astronauts' immune systems weakened after such a long time in space, precautions were taken. Both NASA and Roscosmos officials wore face masks while tending to the astronauts Friday, and others on site looked to be following social distancing guidelines, per Space.com. Skripochka will now return to Russia, while Morgan and Meir will board a flight back to Houston. "It certainly will be very difficult for me to not be able to give some hugs to my family and friends," Morgan said last week. "I think I will feel even more isolated on Earth." (Read more space stories.)