The F-35 production line at Lockheed Martin's factory in Fort Worth, Texas. Credit: Lockheed Martin
PANDEMIC NEWS UPDATE: Quarantined astronauts to arrive in Florida; F-35 production slows; air travel guidelines issued; NASA awards contracts
By Cat Hofacker|May 20, 2020
Our weekly compendium of coronavirus news
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley arrive at Kennedy Space Center in Florida later today for their final week of quarantine before their scheduled May 27 launch aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. The mission, known as Demo-2 for its status as a step toward routine Crew Dragon launches, will mark the first launch of astronauts from U.S. soil since the 2011 liftoff of the space shuttle Atlantis. The astronauts have been socially distancing with their families since March and will be repeatedly tested for COVID-19 before the launch.
Lockheed Martin is slowing production of F-35 jets at its facility in Texas starting Saturday because of “supplier delays” and the need to socially distance workers, the company said yesterday.
The Geneva-based International Air Transport Association yesterday published a list of guidelines for restarting air travel, one of the “vital prerequisites to enabling the global economy to recover.” The report, named “Biosecurity for Air Transport: A Roadmap for Restarting Aviation,” recommends airlines, airports and governments across the world adopt measures that include passenger contact tracing, temperature screenings and modifying “passenger flow through the terminal” to allow social distancing between 1 and 2 meters up until passengers board aircraft.
Congressional Democrats are pressing the U.S. Department of Transportation to create uniform social distancing guidelines for air travel that include mandatory face coverings and limiting the number of passengers aboard aircraft. “A consistent approach by airlines, guided by federal agencies, will be more effective in thwarting the spread of COVID-19 than if no guidelines are in place,” wrote Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., in a Monday letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. The missive from Cantwell, top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee that oversees the aviation sector, echoes a letter from House Transportation Committee Chair Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., earlier this month urging a federal requirement on face coverings.
Honeywell is testing a no-contact temperature monitoring system called ThermoRebellion for the entryways of buildings. A high-resolution, thermal-imaging camera would scan an individual’s face and display the person’s temperature on a monitor. ThermoRebellion would also identify if individuals are wearing required personal protective equipment like face coverings.
NASA’s Earth Science division last week announced funding for four projects that will analyze satellite data to assess the environmental, economic and societal impacts of the pandemic.