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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: Out source to China
By PrinceGaz on 11/10/2009 10:57:13 PM , Rating: 2
Instead of using the high-power laser to slow the object down and cause it to re-entry, why not just vaporise it therefore making it harmless? The military are testing lasers intended to disable missiles and the like, so I'm sure they'll soon have something capable of tracking and vaporising a small object in orbit. Which will also be a nice alternative to watching Iridium flares if you live within a few hundred miles of one of the laser sites, provided they publicise the date and time of each blast.

RE: Out source to China
By AssBall on 11/11/2009 1:31:16 AM , Rating: 2
Why spend that much energy shooting a laser through the atmosphere to vaporise an object in orbit, when you could much more effeciently and easily just push it back into the atmosphere to vaporise with much less power from a laser in a higher orbit?

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997
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