As space junk threatened to pass close to the International Space Station, astronauts on the board received an order to take shelter inside their respective spacecraft. According to the US State Department, the source of the debris back to Russian satellites. Russia destroyed one of its own satellites in an anti-satellite weapon test. This destruction creates thousands of pieces of debris spread out into Earth orbit.
“I’m outraged by this unconscionable action,” “With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS but also their own cosmonauts”. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement
The seven astronauts’ crew is expected to pass through the debris cloud multiple times.
Flight controllers in Houston woke up the crew to warn them and give the order to stay in their Crew Dragon and Soyuz spacecraft early Monday as a precaution.
Flight controllers told the seven members crew to close hatches between the U.S. and Russian segments. Also to close modules that extend radially from the lab’s long axis. This includes Japan’s Kibo, European Space Agency’s Columbus module, the U.S. Quest airlock, and NASA’s Tranquility module.
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After the end of the initial close approach period, the Houston center told the astronauts to return to the station’s interior. And ordered to reopen hatches between the U.S. and Russian segments.
The crew can be asked to be ready to make a quick return-to-Earth in case of an impact, depending on how close the piece of debris is predicted to pass near the ISS.
It’s not the first time this has all happened.
In 2007, China produced a cloud of debris that threaten other spacecraft, after destroying a defunct weather satellite.