Last month we reported on the growing danger of space garbage. Today at about 4:21 p.m. EST, three members of the International Space Station will have a close call with said garbage, Space.com reports. American and Italian astronauts, as well as a Russian cosmonaut, will have to take shelter in a “lifeboat” as a piece of blown-up Chinese satellite whizzes by at a distance of 2.7 miles. Hey China, next time you blow up a weather satellite, remember that other people use space too.
The International Space Station had to maneuver away from another piece of space junk five days ago, but today’s piece of garbage wasn’t being tracked (NASA keeps tabs of about 22,000 bits of debris). There wasn’t enough time to fire the station’s thrusters to avoid impact, so the crew is taking precautions:
The astronauts and cosmonaut will close hatches between modules of the station’s U.S. segment, and take shelter in their Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft, which can double as a lifeboat in case the debris actually strikes the space station and forces the crew to flee.
NASA is keeping a close eye on the space debris to make sure it passes by the space station without incident.
While today’s close call is expected to occur without incident, it should draw attention to the perils of space crap. If any unforeseen issues occur with this brush with cosmic garbage, watch this space. (Pun intended, got a problem with that?)
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 5, 2011