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Home > Focus > Space Station Briefly Evacuated Due To Possible Space Debris Collision

Space Station Briefly Evacuated Due To Possible Space Debris Collision

di Jonathan Hankins [1], 13 Marzo 2009

Well, I hate to say I told you so but....
In my previous post [2] I wrote about the threat that space debris poses to functioning satellites, the Hubble telescope and the International Space Station, in order to question the sustainability of the current space policy. I briefly return to this argument with an update. NASA report [3] that on Thursday 12th of March 2009 the 3 man crew of the International Space station was forced to briefly abandon the craft and seek refuge in their Soyuz emergency vehicle for fear of a possible space debris collision. NASA also admit that this is not the first time that the crew have left the station functioning on automatic for the same reason, although they have constantly maintained that the risk of collision is low, and the most important sections of the station have been strengthen in order to minimize damage in case of such an incident.

A piece of debris of about 13 cm in diameter and probably part of a spent satellite motor was due to pass through the possible collision zone and even though the possibility of contact was minimal (passing about 4.5 KM from the station) NASA decided to be prudent and take precautionary steps.

NASA realized the danger late on Wednesday and so there was not enough time to move the station out of harm's way, so the astronauts had a rather rude awakening with a little under an hour to complete their evacuation.

On the NASA website you can also hear the radio conversation [4] between the cosmonauts and ground control as they receive this information and their orders. This is an interesting document in itself, as it shows how communication problems could complicate the situation. The astronaut does not hear the start of the message and so clarification is needed, and at one point the ground control voice gives the wrong expected time for the collision.

All easily resolved problems though, much easier anyway than the present and worstening space debris problem.

Mostra/Nascondi i link citati nell'articolo

Link citati nell'articolo:

  1. 1] /schedabiografica/Jonathan Hankins
  2. 2] /en/focus/2009/02/satellite_traffic_problems.html
  3. 3] http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html
  4. 4] http://www.nasa.gov/mp3/318202main_tca_highlights_clip3.mp3
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See also: Satellite traffic problems by Jonathan Hankins
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