Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Space Station Crew Shelters in Orbital Debris Scare

NASA
Collision scare clears International Space Station - msnbc.com

A piece of space junk zoomed uncomfortably close by the International Space Station today (June 28), so close that the outpost's six-man crew had to take shelter in Russian space capsules in case of a collision.

The space debris made its closest approach to the space station at 8:08 a.m. EDT (1208 GMT), coming within 850 feet (260 meters) of the space station, where it posed a slim chance of hitting the station. However, the debris passed by the station without incident and the spaceflyers were able to re-enter the station after about a half hour.

Editors note: The ISS is about 109 meters wide along the truss that holds the solar arrays.  The orbital debris came within about 2 1/2 times (260 meters) the width of the ISS. Somehow NASA's "slim chance of hitting the station" comment doesn't seem to comforting.

Editors note June 29: The New York Times states that there is an estimated 1 in 5 chance over the 10 year lifespan of the ISS that an orbital debris hit will cause it to be evacuated.