Despite coronavirus, astronauts blast off to International Space Station

The crew was 'safe and healthy' before takeoff

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Three astronauts blasted off to the International Space Station on Thursday morning despite changes in protocol due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Two Russian astronauts, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, and NASA's Chris Cassidy successfully took off from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:05 a.m. ET. and arrived at the orbiting lab six hours later.

Astronauts quarantined for two weeks before takeoff, which is "standard procedure" for NASA called Health and Stabilization, the administration's TV station reported while recording the event live.

"This process ensures that they aren't sick or incubating an illness when they get to the space station and is called 'health stabilization," NASA said in a March statement regarding its COVID-19 procedures.

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The NASA TV host added during the livestream that the crew was "safe and healthy" before takeoff.

The Soyuz MS-16 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station blasts off at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Thursday (Roscosmos Space Agency Press Service via AP)

"Today's launch is pretty notable for several reasons," the host said during the live event. "The first being that this crew underwent their final weeks of spaceflight preparations during ... the COVID-19 pandemic."

The host added that NASA personnel had been "trimmed down to just the bare necessities," and that the administration and its partners are "always taking steps to prevent the crew from getting any sickness or illness."

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Astronauts have been living on the International Space Station continuously since 2000.

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