The Tech Herald

ISS crew living on the edge following second collision alert

by Steven Mostyn - Apr 6 2011, 18:04

Another near miss. Image: NASA.

The crew of the International Space Station (ISS) had its collective nerve tested yet again this week after news arose that the station was facing a second possible collision with a chunk of hurtling space junk.

Thought to be from a long-defunct Chinese satellite, the six-inch lump of orbiting detritus was initially spotted by NASA boffins on Tuesday, who promptly proceeded to track its progress in relation to the nearby multi-billion dollar research facility.

Without having enough time to manually adjust the station’s orbit in order to compensate for the object’s trajectory, Commander Dmitry Kondratyev and accompanying astronauts Paolo Nespoli and Catherine Coleman were instructed to seek refuge in an attached Soyuz space capsule.

However, before the trio could enter the escape module, NASA controllers informed them that advanced tracking had revealed the approaching piece of debris did not pose a direct threat.

According to NASA’s initial estimates regarding this latest near miss (the ISS suffers several every year), the small but potentially deadly satellite fragment passed safely by at a distance of approximately three miles.

This is the second time in less than a week that the ISS has been buzzed by orbiting man-made rubbish. On Friday of last week, the crew successfully tweaked the station’s orbit to avoid an incoming shard from a satellite collision that took place in 2009.

NASA’s figures suggest there are more than 12,500 pieces of trackable space junk currently in orbit.

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