Debris may prompt space station astronauts to take shelter
An image taken from the International Space Station on August 31 shows then-Hurricane Katia churning in the Atlantic Ocean.
November 22nd, 2011
05:45 PM ET

Debris may prompt space station astronauts to take shelter

The International Space Station's three astronauts may need to take shelter Wednesday morning because of approaching debris, NASA said Tuesday.

The debris, a 4-inch piece of a weather satellite that China destroyed with a missile in 2007, is expected to pass within 2,800 feet of the space station at 4:43 a.m. ET Wednesday, NASA said. An impact could damage the space station, and NASA said that distance is too close for comfort.

If the prediction holds into Tuesday night, Cmdr. Dan Burbank and flight engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin will spend several hours sealing the station’s hatches. NASA will make the final call at 4 a.m. ET on whether to move the three-member crew in the space station into a docked Soyuz spacecraft, NASA said.

NASA Television and NASA’s website would begin showing the shelter operation at 4:35 a.m.

Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin arrived at the space station just last week. The previous crew left the station Monday and landed in Kazakhstan on Tuesday.

Monday’s departure of the previous crew slightly changed the station’s orbit, making a Wednesday collision with the debris possible, NASA said.

“The object had been monitored earlier but was not then a threat,” NASA said on its website.

The debris is a piece of a Chinese Fengyun weather satellite, NASA said. In January 2007, China used a land-based missile to destroy the 2,200-pound object, leaving more than 150,000 pieces of debris orbiting above Earth, NASA estimated.

The space station has had several close calls with space debris. In June 2011, an object came about 1,100 feet from the station, prompted the six astronauts aboard to take shelter inside two Soyuz capsules.

In March 2009, a chunk of metal - about 5 inches across, and moving at nearly 20,000 mph - passed within three miles of the station, prompting the three-member crew into the Soyuz return ship for about 10 minutes, NASA said. The debris came from a satellite rocket motor used on an earlier space mission, NASA said.

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soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. RUFFNUTT

    SPACE GARBAGE... IT LURKS EVERY WHERE!!!... china is ruining the planet and space also now..

    November 22, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. BOMBO

    You know, I saw the headline and I was all set to post the sarcastic comment "THANKS CHINA FOR BLOWING UP THAT SATELLITE A FEW YEARS AGO", but then I decided to read the story first, and lo and behold....

    November 22, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Blue Mountian

    According to an old NPR article, China shot down the aging weather satellite in a kinda "target practice at low-level earth orbit". The satellite was about 500 miles above the Earths' surface. Scientist said at the time, that it was a "fairly sophisticated technology". The report also said that the satellite was the size of a refrigerator and that the missile had to have some sorta "advanced guidance system".

    Makes one think twice about China and what their capable of!

    November 22, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Capricorn Control

      It would have been more impressive if they had a missile that latched on and shoved the satellite instead of turning it into a big stupid mess of dangerous bits flung in all directions. Not very smart there.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. drap

    When and where will this "made in china" debris come out of orbit,when it does Im claiming it and selling it to the guys on Pawn Stars... .

    November 22, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Roadsniper

    Its a bird, its a plane, no its a jetesoned turd

    November 22, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jump

    The US blew up a satellite themselves no biggie

    November 22, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. drap

    Will blowing up a satellite cause space debris... .?

    November 22, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Fortean

    Space debris is very serious. We need to stop creating it and clean up what is there or we run the risk of not being able to do manned space flights. We junk up every environment we encounter.

    November 22, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. chrissy

    I totally agree roadsniper! I would totally get out there and and get in shape but my bottom is huge and all i can do is sit here and blog.

    November 22, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. asdf

    Yes the US blew up a Sat but did it such as to not create debris as it all burned up in reentry. The Chinese just made a huge mess. Sadly soon space is going to be as polluted as shown in WALL-E.

    November 22, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Roadsniper

    Hi chrissy, yes it is nasty out there. I know people that worked for nasa for many years and they have commented on the space environment, if i where to go out there i would look all funked out to the max, im thin, but my legs are huge hence roadsniper, means hard core road racer on road bikes, now you know! And the rest of my body would be a flabby mess,lol

    November 23, 2011 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
  12. New Orleans

    Isn't that picture what they call "Earth po.rn"? I think I've seen that hurricane's a** before...

    November 23, 2011 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. rooney

    Hope everything turns out alright. I agree that they shouldn't be junking up space.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:33 am | Report abuse |
  14. bike accessories

    Now a bike shop is no longer the only place to find a great bike, you can find one online and have it shipped to your door and assembled in under ten minutes.

    November 25, 2011 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jimh77

    Everyone that has equipment in space needs to come together and clean up the mess above the earth. Personally I don't think it is that difficult, expensive (which is why everyone has to foot the bill), but not difficult.

    December 9, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
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