Space station emergency as cloud of debris threatens astronauts’ safety

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Seven astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) were forced to take refuge aboard the Crew Dragon and Soyuz spacecraft early Monday as the orbiting outpost came close to a cloud of dangerous space junk.

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According to NASA, the junk was created when Russia destroyed one of its older satellites in an anti-satellite missile test, an explosion that reportedly created about 1,500 separate debris.

There was no damage to the ISS, and NASA said it would continue to monitor the situation in the coming days.


Describing the emergency, the space agency said that the crew members made their way to their spacecraft shortly before 2 a.m. ET and remained there until about 4 p.m.

The ISS is passing “near or near” a cloud of debris every 90 minutes as it orbits 250 miles above Earth. Astronauts were asked to ashore for the second and third passes after a risk assessment by the debris office and ballistics experts at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

NASA response

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In a statement On the incident, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson did not back down, calling Russia’s satellite attack “reckless and dangerous”.

Nelson said: “I am outraged by this irresponsible and destabilizing action. With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unimaginable that Russia will allow not only American and international partner astronauts on the ISS, but its own would also endanger their own astronauts. Their actions are reckless and dangerous, as well as endanger the Chinese space station and the Taconauts on board.”

The NASA chief said that “all countries have a responsibility to prevent the purposeful creation of space debris from ASATs.” [anti-satellite tests] and promoting a safe, sustainable space environment.”

The US State Department also issued a statement calling the satellite attack “dangerous and irresponsible”. It added that the Russian satellite attack significantly increased the risk to the ISS crew as well as other spacecraft activities.

The US State Department confirms and condemns that Russia conducted an anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) test in low Earth orbit.

Full statement:

— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) November 15, 2021

Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, attempted to downplay the incident, saying: “The orbit of the object, which today forced the crew to board the spacecraft according to standard procedures, has moved away from the ISS orbit. is in the green zone.

According to earlier research from NASA, tens of millions of pieces of space debris are already orbiting Earth. Most are less than 1 mm long and impossible to track, but it is also estimated that there are about 500,000 marble-sized fragments among the orbiting junk.

The space station orbits Earth at about 17,500 miles per hour, so any object that hits the facility has the potential to cause serious damage and a risk to life. Working satellites that provide critical communications services and other data can also be knocked over by collisions with space debris, potentially creating more junk.

Adding a new cloud of debris is a serious cause for concern, with NASA and its counterparts tracking it using special monitoring technology, and special monitoring techniques to adjust the space station’s orbit if necessary. is used.

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