Space Junk Comes Too Close For Comfort to Space Station
It was a close call this morning for the three-member crew of the International Space Station when a one-third-inch wide piece of space junk, speeding at 22,000 miles per hour came within 2.8 miles of the orbiting station.
The three crewmen, two American astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut, were ordered by NASA
to take refuge in the Russian escape craft, the Soyuz capsule, which is always docked at the space station in the event of an emergency.
The speeding piece of junk, an old part from an engine used to correct the trajectory of an orbiting satellite was traveling about 4,000 miles faster than the space station's speed of 18,000 miles per hour.
Despite its size, the tiny bit of metal could be lethal to astronauts if it penetrated the space station’s hull.
When a piece of space debris is spotted in the vicinity of space station, the normal procedure is for NASA is to maneuver the station out of the way. In this case, the piece of space junk was seen to late to do anything other that have the crew members temporarily move into the capsule.
It took only ten minutes for the danger to pass, and the men reported they didn’t see the object as it zipped past them.
When the danger passed and the crew was ready to go back, space station commander Mike Fincke radioed Mission Control in Houston: