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Astronaut Who Calls Western Pennsylvania Home Gears Up For Return To Earth Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Since the coronavirus pandemic began, a handful of people on this Earth have had zero fear of contracting the virus.

It's because they're not actually on this Earth. They're 250 miles above it.

But now some of the astronauts are about the leave the International Space Station and return home to a different world than the one they remember.

Among them is an Army doctor rooted in western Pennsylvania.

Dr. Andrew Morgan – who calls New Castle home – has been aboard the International Space Station since July.

Along with fellow astronaut Jessica Meir of Maine and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, he'll return to Earth on April 17.

During a NASA news conference, KDKA's Ken Rice asked him how closely he has been following what's happening on Earth, and his thoughts about returning to the planet he left nine months ago.

"As an emergency physician, I understand what it's like to be at the doorway of a hospital or a field hospital or on the front lines of combat. And that's exactly the situation that physicians and first responders and health care workers are finding themselves in across the globe right now," said Morgan. "And I'm very proud to be part of that profession. But I'll have to admit that there's a little bit of guilt that I am as separated from it as I could be and will only return to the middle of this next week."

While aboard the ISS, Morgan has completed six spacewalks and conducted numerous scientific experiments.

His father will tell you Morgan has pushed himself his whole life, including at West Point, while training to be an emergency physician and while deployed with the Army in the Middle East.

KDKA's Ken Rice asked Richard Morgan of Neshannock Township if it seemed surreal to know his son was floating above a planet wracked by a pandemic.

"Very much so," he replied. "He's up there circling the earth once every 90 minutes and completely isolated from what's going on down here."

Andrew Morgan circled the country as a kid while the Air Force moved his father around. But he's always considered his parents' hometown – New Castle – his own.

"So it's been a real pleasure, a real honor to represent that part of the country, that part of Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh area, with me up here on the ISS."

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