Debris prompts space station crew to seek shelter

Irene Klotz, Reuters
March 25, 2012, 5:03 am

Nighttime view from the International Space Station shows the Atlantic coast of the United States in this NASA handout image dated February 6, 2012. REUTERS/NASA/Handout

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) – A passing piece of potentially dangerous space debris forced astronauts at the International Space Station to temporarily seek refuge in escape ships early on Saturday, U.S. officials said.

The debris, a fragment from an old Russian satellite named Cosmos 2251 that smashed into an Iridium Communications spacecraft in 2009, passed harmlessly by the $100 billion orbital outpost at 2:38 a.m. EDT (0638 GMT), NASA said.

With enough advance notice, NASA will maneuver the space station, which orbits about 240 miles above the planet, to put more space between it and passing debris. The other option is for the station’s six crew members to shelter inside the two Soyuz capsules berthed at the station in case the outpost is struck and depressurizes.

“This was a very erratic piece of Cosmos 2251 debris and tracking it was very difficult,” NASA spokesman Michael Curie wrote in an email to Reuters.

“Its size and exact distance are unknown, and the crew sheltered in place as a highly-conservative, cautionary measure. The predicted miss distance prior to its passing was 11 to 14 kilometers (6.8 to 8.7 miles) in overall miss distance. But again, we do not know its exact distance at 2:38 am EDT, the time of closest approach,” he said.

It was the third time a crew has had to shelter in Soyuz spacecraft when debris was predicted to pass close to the space station, NASA said.

More than 20,000 pieces of man-made debris larger than a softball currently orbit Earth. Space junk travels at speeds of up to 17,500 mph, so even small pieces have enough energy to cause significant damage upon impact.

NASA says the greatest risk from debris comes from untrackable objects. The February 10, 2009, collision of the Russian and Iridium satellites added more than 2,000 pieces of trackable debris to the growing list of space junk. Two years earlier, China intentionally destroyed one of its defunct weather satellites to test a missile, generating more than 3,000 pieces of debris.

The U.S. military’s Space Surveillance Network tracks objects as small as two inches in diameter in orbits close to Earth, such as where the space station flies, and about one yard (.9 meter) in orbit in higher orbits.

(Editing by Paul Simao)

Debris prompts space station crew to seek shelter – Yahoo! New Zealand News.

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Southwest Sees Mysterious Streak of Light Flash Across Sky

Updated: Wednesday, 14 Sep 2011, 9:52 PM MST

Published : Wednesday, 14 Sep 2011, 8:53 PM MST

Southwest Sees Mysterious Streak of Light Flash Across Sky: MyFoxPHOENIX.com

PHOENIX – The FOX 10 newsroom has been flooded with calls from people reporting a strange streak in the sky — and it wasn’t just seen here.

Our sister station in Los Angeles has been getting calls about the same streak. People have reported seeing it in Tucson, San Diego and Las Vegas.

We even heard police officers from valley agencies discussing it on the scanners.

We are making calls trying to figure out what this could have been, but right now — we don’t know.

Is it a meteor? A NASA satellite, or some sort of space junk?

In the past — some of these streaks have been rockets being fired out Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The National Weather Service says they haven’t heard anything.

We are checking into the possibilities.

via Southwest Sees Mysterious Streak of Light Flash Across Sky.

How Would NASA & Russia Evacuate the International Space Station?

By Clara Moskowitz

updated 8/29/2011 4:19:18 PM ET

In the wake of a Russian rocket failure, NASA is considering evacuating the crew of the International Space Station later this year. The unprecedented move would mark the first time in more than 10 years that the orbiting outpost has gone unmanned.

The space station evacuation is one possibility following the failure of the unmanned Russian supply spacecraft just after its Aug. 24 launch — a surprise given the reliable track record of its workhorse Soyuz rocket. The vehicle’s Progress 44 cargo craft, and its 2.9 tons of supplies bound for the International Space Station, crashed in Siberia.

An investigation into the cause of the failure is under way, but until the issue is resolved NASA and its Russian partners are delaying upcoming launches to crews and cargo to the space station. The Soyuz rockets used to launch Progress vehicles are similar to ones used to launch crews into orbit, station managers said. [ Photos: Russia’s Lost Cargo Ship Progress 44 ]

So if a root cause isn’t found quickly, they may have to ground manned Soyuz rockets for the time being, forcing the space agencies to leave the $100 billion orbiting laboratory unmanned for the first time since 2001….

via How Would NASA & Russia Evacuate the International Space Station? – Technology & science – Space – Space.com – msnbc.com.