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The International Space Station   (Source: NASA)
Astronauts aboard the ISS were forced to sleep in Russian Soyuz escape pods due to a piece of flying debris

A small piece of space debris flew near the International Space Station (ISS) late last week, with ground control flight operators instructing ISS astronauts to hide in escape crafts.

The six-person crew aboard the ISS first learned of the debris early on Friday morning.  Since it proved so difficult to monitor it using satellite and ground-based technology, NASA said the piece of debris likely was extremely small.

Due to the space debris, the crew had to sleep in two Russian Soyuz craft designed to be escape pods -- the actual trajectory of the debris was unknown, causing even more alarm from mission operators.

It turned out, according to space officials, that the debris didn't come close to the ISS after all, but the decision to order the crew into the Soyuz escape craft was still a good idea.  

As the number of floating space junk increases, the possibility of impact with the ISS, satellites or manned missions has increased.  The ISS has been forced to undergo avoidance maneuvers in the past, but this may become an issue that is even more serious in the future.

The United States Air Force announced early last spring it would set aside $500 million in 2010 to help track space junk floating around Earth.  NASA officials also again said the threat of space junk would continue to increase unless space experts came up with methods to stop it.



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RE: Relative velocities
By kattanna on 11/10/2009 3:32:55 PM , Rating: 3
and its reasons like this, all the space junk that threatens even mobile space craft, that i am still laughing at the space elevator.

yes, lets stick a 22,000 mile long cable out into space. im sure it will be safe from all the debris.


RE: Relative velocities
By FaaR on 11/10/2009 7:33:09 PM , Rating: 2
It may be long, but it won't be very wide. Also, "all the debris" is a relative term; space - even the very insignificant bit in the immediate surrounding of planet Earth - is very big. So those fragments are extremely spread out; the risk of collision would be tiny to say the least.

Space elevators are probably impractical anyway, but for other reasons...


RE: Relative velocities
By Visual on 11/10/2009 7:53:29 PM , Rating: 2
Hurry up and stop laughing, you and everybody else... I want to see the elevator completed before the next 50 years ;)

If you think about it, the chances of a piece of space junk hitting a few centimeters wide ribbon are quite a lot smaller than it hitting a tens or hundreds of meters wide object like the ISS, no matter that the ribbon is stretching at all altitudes.

Plus, the base station will be mobile to allow position adjustments for the ribbons against the large debris that we can track, and there will be several parallel ribbons that should work as a decent backup if a small piece that we can not track happens to hit.

Lastly, a break in the ribbon would still not be anything catastrophic. The geostationary station and the counterweight will be safe even though they may enter a new orbit reaching a higher altitude. If we actually disconnect the counterweight then the station's orbit can remain completely unaffected as well.

There doesn't seem to be significant risk for human life at all, the destroyed ribbon and eventual cargo and climbers that were in transit at the moment will be the only loss. It's sure going to cost us some, but probably not as much as the savings we get from the elevator when it works properly.


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