NASA furious after Russian anti-satellite test threatens safety of astronauts on I.S.S.

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15-hundred pieces of space junk floating in the Space Station's path

NASA/International Space Station

HOUSTON (KIAH) It was an emergency that no one expected on the International Space Station. At first, it seemed like a drill, when an indicator light alerted the Flight Control Team on Earth that a satellite in space was breaking apart. But when it was determined that the fragments could create sufficient debris, posing a collision threat to the station, that when everyone realized this was no drill. This was real.

Turns out the Russian Defense Ministry carried out a weapons test in space by destroying a defunct satellite, that created more than 15-hundred pieces of space junk. The crew was awakened and directed to close the hatches to radial modules on the station and then had to seek shelter as a precaution.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson released the following statement about the incident: “Earlier today (Monday), due to the debris generated by the destructive Russian Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test, ISS astronauts and cosmonauts undertook emergency procedures for safety. Like Secretary Blinken, I’m outraged by this irresponsible and destabilizing 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. Their actions are reckless and dangerous, threatening as well the Chinese space station and the taikonauts on board. All nations have a responsibility to prevent the purposeful creation of space debris from ASATs and to foster a safe, sustainable space environment.”

NASA ISS Expedition 66 with Crew 3 arrival
NASA ISS Expedition 66 with Crew 3 arrival (Courtesy: NASA)

Russian officials are rejecting the accusations that they endangered astronauts on the I.S.S. While they confirmed the test happen, the Russian defense ministry insists, the U.S. knows for certain that the fragments in space — do not pose a threat to the astronauts and called remarks by U.S. officials “hypocritical.”

NASA says the I.S.S. crew sheltered in place for two passes through or near the vicinity of the debris cloud. The crew members made their way into their spacecraft shortly before 2 a.m. EST and remained there until about 4 a.m. The space station past through or near the cloud every 90 minutes, but the need to shelter for only the second and third passes of the event was based on a risk assessment made by the debris office and ballistics specialists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Meanwhile, the hatches between the U.S. and Russian segments remained open the entire time. NASA will continue monitoring the debris in the coming days and beyond, to ensure the safety of the crew in orbit.

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