On Thursday, a potentially dangerous encounter prompted the International Space Station crew to take shelter in the Soyuz escape spacecraft.
It is the fourth time when International Space Station crew is taking cover from a potential impact of the Space Station with space debris. This time, the space debris was part of an old Russian satellite that was hurdling toward the International Space Station.
Since no such event is left unnoticed, the crew in Houston of the NASA Mission Control saw the satellite piece, calculated it trajectory and concluded that the debris would pass the International Space Station at 7:01 a.m. To this extent, a warning was issued for the ISS Commander, Gennady Padalka and the crew.
While they were safely tucked in the Soyuz vehicle, the International Space Station operated under normal parameters. The hideout was left shortly after, and all activity was resumed.
The incident is not a scarce one. Out of the 500,000 pieces of space debris, some are bound to meet the trajectories of other spacecrafts or the space station or satellites as they float uncontrolled in the vastness of space.
We wouldn’t pay much attention to some space debris considering the tiny dimensions of some of the it, but the speed it travels at could drastically impact anything that crosses its path.
As the Russian satellite part passed the International Space Station safely, a tweet greeted the success:
“Happy there was no impact. Great coordination with international ground teams. Excellent training.”
Certainly, the crews are systematically prepared for such situations. Usually, the crew aboard the International Space Station is warned well in advance of space debris threatening the station. While the ISS is strong enough to sustain the impact of smaller space debris, bigger debris is spotted early on and the ISS can be moved out of its way.
Space debris, small or big is quite the nuisance. Proposals to clean it up have ranged from laser blasting it to pieces to spacecrafts roaming the near-Earth orbits gulping down on space debris in a Pac-man style. Any materialization of proposals to clear space debris is still awaited.
The Russian satellite piece that kept the ISS crew in the Soyuz vehicle could have provoked damage worth of billions of dollars in equipment, as well as lives. Thankfully, it didn’t. The ISS crew resumed activity aboard the ISS as just another day had passed by.
Photo Credits esa.int