NASA astronaut, Russian cosmonauts launch to the space station during a pandemic

At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 63 crewmembers Ivan Vagner (left) and Anatoly Ivanishin (center) of Roscosmos and Chris Cassidy (right) of NASA pose for pictures on April 3 in front of their Soyuz spacecraft as part of their pre-launch activities.

(CNN)Two Russian cosmonauts, Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy launched to the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday morning at 4:05 a.m. ET.

The planned launch comes at a time when many events have been postponed or canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Travel restrictions prevented some of the astronauts' families, media and industry officials from attending the launch. Those involved in the launch were all seen keeping six feet apart and wearing masks.
But many of the health and safety precautions taken were standard for astronauts launching to the space station.
    NASA has a long history of quarantining astronauts before they go to space to prevent illnesses like cold and flu from occurring off our planet. It was a concern even in the early days of the agency's astronaut program.
    "The health and welfare of the crew is always paramount," said Courtney Beasley, communications specialist at NASA's Johnson Space Center. "All of our crew must stay in quarantine for two weeks before they launch. This ensures that they aren't sick or incubating an illness when they get to the space station, and is called 'health stabilization.'"
    Ahead of quarantine, the astronauts followed the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations regarding coronavirus. NASA and the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, maintained the standard quarantine period of two weeks for the crew, Beasley said.
    "During quarantine, the astronauts live in their crew quarters -- NASA has crew quarters for this purpose at Kennedy and Johnson Space Centers -- and Roscosmos has them in Baikonur," she said. "They don't have direct contact with anyone who has not been pre-cleared by NASA flight surgeons. The time is spent preparing for flight, studying and resting, as well as working out and making video calls to friends and family members."
    About six hours after Thursday morning's launch, the astronauts docked with the International Space Station at 10:13 a.m. ET. The hatches opened at 12:28 p.m. ET and they joined Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan.
    Here's how NASA protects astronauts and the International Space Station from coronavirus