Space Station crew can stay put despite debris

Wednesday, November 23rd 2011. | Science News

A piece of debris hurling through space no longer presents enough of a threat to force the International Space Station crew to move, NASA said late Tuesday.

International Space Station“NASA flight controllers downgraded conjunction threat,” the agency announced on its official Twitter feed. “No need to shelter in place required on space station.”

Earlier, NASA had said the crew would shelter in place, meaning the three crew members would move into the Soyuz vehicle attached to the space station.

The debris is a 4-inch diameter chunk of a Chinese weather satellite, which is expected to pass by at 4:43 a.m. ET.

Earlier Tuesday, NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries said the debris was approaching the station at 5 kilometers per second.

The Chinese Fengyun 1C was destroyed in 2007 by a missile test.

Cmdr. Dan Burbank and flight engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin arrived at the Space Station just last week.

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

The space station has had several close calls with space debris.

In June 2011, an object came about 1,100 feet from the station, prompting 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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