PANDEMIC NEWS UPDATE: NASA to update public on science mission status; air passengers prioritize social distancing; UK to mandate quarantine for travelers
By Cat Hofacker|May 27, 2020
Our weekly compendium of coronavirus news
NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen will host a public, virtual meeting tomorrow at 3 p.m. Eastern time “to discuss updates in NASA’s science program and the current state of NASA activities.” Work on many of the agency’s science missions is on hold, but preparations for the July launch of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover continues at Kennedy Space Center.
In a Honeywell survey of frequent air travelers, “nearly 60%” cited social distancing as their “top priority during travel,” and 72% said they were more concerned about the environment on the plane than in the airport.
Global airline debt will reach $550 billion by the end of 2020, a $120 billion increase over the start of the year, according to an analysis yesterday from the International Air Transport Association. Of that number, $67 billion comes in the form of government loans that must be repaid. “The next challenge will be preventing airlines from sinking under the burden of debt that the aid is creating,” said IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac in a press release.
The United Kingdom will implement a 14-day quarantine for travelers entering the region beginning June 8, home secretary Priti Patel announced Friday.
NASA has pushed back the date of its first asteroid sample collection to October “given the current requirements that limit in-person participation at the mission support area,” the agency said last week. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was scheduled to descend toward the surface of near-Earth asteroid Bennu in August to collect 2 kilograms of dusty regolith.
Southwest Airlines hopes to resume flights with the Boeing 737 MAX by the end of the year to offset the retirement of older aircraft, CEO Gary Kelly said during the airline’s annual shareholder meeting. He said the airline has grounded about 400 of its 750 planes, which doesn’t include the 34 MAX aircraft in the Southwest fleet grounded since 2019.
Boeing workers have resumed construction of Space Launch System at NASA facilities in Mississippi and Louisiana “with COVID-19 safety protocols in place,” the company tweeted Thursday.
United Airlines is partnering with the Cleveland Clinic of Ohio and Clorox to “inform and guide” new cleaning and social distancing protocols at airports and onboard planes “that include touchless kiosks in select locations for baggage check-in, sneeze guards, mandatory face coverings for crew and customers, and giving customers options when flights are more full.”