Russian test blamed for space junk endangering space station

A Russian weapons test produced more than 1,500 pieces of space junk, which now threatens the seven astronauts aboard the International Space Station, according to US officials, who called the strike reckless and irresponsible.

The State Department confirmed on Monday that the debris was of an old Russian satellite destroyed by the missile.

“Needless to say, I’m angry. It’s unconscious,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson The Associated Press, “It is unbelievable that the Russian government will test this and threaten not only the international astronauts, but their own astronauts who are aboard the station,” as well as the three people on China’s space station.

Nelson said astronauts now face four times higher risk than normal. And it’s based on debris large enough to track, with hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces moving around — “any of which can do enormous damage if hit in the right place.”

Slamming Russia, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said satellites were also now in danger.

In a statement, Blinken said the test clearly demonstrates that Russia “despite its claims to oppose the weaponization of outer space, threatens the exploration and use of outer space through its reckless and irresponsible behavior by all countries.” ready to put in.”

There was no immediate comment from Russia late Monday about the missile attack.

Once the threat became clear on Monday morning, four Americans, one German and two Russians were immediately ordered to take shelter in their docked capsules. They spent two hours in two capsules, eventually emerging only to close and reopen the station’s individual laboratories in each orbit, or 1 hours, as they passed near or through debris.

According to Nelson, by the end of the day, only the hatches to the station’s central core remained open, as the crew fell asleep.

Even a piece of paint can do great damage while orbiting at 28,000 kilometers per hour. Something big can, on impact, be disastrous.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US has repeatedly expressed concerns about conducting satellite tests with Russia. “We will continue to make it clear that we will not tolerate this type of activity,” he told reporters.

NASA Mission Control said the growing threat could continue to disrupt astronauts’ science research and other tasks. Four of the seven crew members reached the parikrama post on Thursday night.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who is in the middle of a year-long mission, called it “a crazy but well-coordinated day” as he said good night to Mission Control. “It was definitely a great way to bond as a crew, starting with our first working day in space,” he said.

Similar weapons tests by China in 2007 also yielded countless debris. One of those fragments threatened to come dangerously close to the space station last week. Although this was later dismissed as a risk, NASA had a trickle of the station anyway.

Anti-satellite missile tests by the US in 2008 and by India in 2019 were conducted at a very low altitude, about 420 km below the space station.

The inactive Russian satellite Kosmos 1408 was orbiting about 65 km high.

As of Monday, US Space Command was already tracking nearly 20,000 pieces of space junk, including old and broken satellites from around the world.

Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said it would take days if not weeks and months to catalog the latest debris and confirm their orbits. Atmospheric drag and other forces will cause the fragments to begin to spread over time, he said in an email.

McDowell said the space station is at particularly high risk because the test took place near its orbit. But all objects in low-Earth orbit, including China’s space station and even the Hubble Space Telescope, will be at “somewhat increased risk” over the next few years, he said.

Earlier in the day, the Russian space agency said via Twitter that the astronauts were ordered into their docked capsules in case they had to flee quickly. The agency said the crew was conducting routine operations, and the space station’s commander, Russian Anton Shkaplerov, tweeted: “Guys, everything is regular with us!”

But a cloud of debris posed a threat to each passing orbit – or every 1 1/2 hours – and all robotic activity on the US side was halted. German astronaut Mathias Maurer also had to find a safer place to sleep than a European lab.

NASA’s Nelson noted that Russia and the Americans have had a space partnership for half a century – going back to the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975.

“I don’t want it to be threatened,” he added AP, given that the space station is needed by both countries. “You have to operate it together.”

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