NASA Forced to Delay Plans Over Space Debris

NASA Forced to Delay Plans Over Space Debris

( – NASA has been forced to postpone repairs to the International Space Station (ISS) after a cloud of debris made it too dangerous for astronauts to go on a spacewalk – and a Russian weapons test could be to blame.

On November 30, two NASA astronauts were due to carry out a spacewalk to replace a faulty radio antenna on the ISS, impacting the station’s data transmission capabilities. It should have been a simple operation, switching out the malfunctioning system for a spare stored on the station.

Unfortunately for NASA, on November 12, Russia used an A-235 antiballistic missile (ABM) to destroy an old Soviet spy satellite. The missile test, which created a massive debris field 50 miles in diameter and orbiting at 17,500 mph, was internationally condemned, with the US State Department calling it “dangerous and irresponsible.”

On Monday, NASA warned the ISS a cloud of space junk – likely debris from the missile test – was approaching the station, forcing the crew to shelter in their armored escape pods. NASA then canceled the planned spacewalk just in case smaller debris particles were near the station. While the ISS is shielded against micrometeorite impacts, spacesuits are not.

Now that NASA analysts have had time to evaluate the debris hazard, the ISS personnel rescheduled the repair job for December 2.

The destruction of the Soviet Kosmos-1408 satellite created at least 1,500 pieces of junk big enough to show up on radar from Earth – and hundreds of thousands of smaller fragments. This new debris joins an estimated 128 million pieces of man-made garbage already in space – most of it orbiting Earth at 25,000 feet per second, eight times faster than a rifle bullet. Space is becoming a dangerous place.

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