Space Junk Forces Space Station Crew to Seek Shelter

Jul 16, 2015

A chunk of space debris traveling more than eight miles per second forced three crew members aboard the International Space Station to seek emergency shelter on Thursday. NASA said the debris was a fragment from an old Russian weather satellite.

For almost an hour, American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka were instructed to stay inside the Soyuz capsule, which is docked to the International Space Station. This is only the fourth time in the 15-year life of the space station that it has had to implement this procedure, NASA said.

Video aboard the station showed Kelly, Kornienko and Padalka moving throughout the station to close hatches.

"Happy there was no impact," Kelly said via Twitter. "Great coordination with international ground teams. Excellent training."

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Normally, NASA learns about incoming debris with more lead time. When it has more warning, jets on the station fire to maneuver the football-field sized structure out of the way. The ISS has been moved twice for debris since Scott Kelly came aboard in late March. But on Thursday, the crew only had 90 minutes notice. Another hour-and-a-half later, the crew received the all-clear and went back to work.

NASA estimates there may be as many as half-a-million pieces of debris that could pose a threat to spacecraft like the International Space Station, which orbits at a speed of about 17,500 mph, or four miles per second.

The debris that crossed the space station was estimated to be traveling about twice that speed.

Next week, three more crew members are scheduled to launch from Kazakhstan to join those on board.

Kelly and Kornienko are 110 days into a yearlong mission aboard the space station. It's being covered by time in a multi-part TIME series, “A Year in Space,” which premiered last week. Click here to watch the series, or watch Episode 1, "Leaving Home,” below.

Read next: See the First Close-Up Photo of Mars Ever Taken

See Scott Kelly's First 30 Days in Space

Good guesses on my 1st #SpaceGeo pic! I'll announce the winner Friday. Do you know your geo?
Scott Kelly has posted a photo almost every day since arriving at the ISS. Here, see a selection from his first 30 days in space. (Via Twitter on April 23, 2015)Scott Kelly—NASA
Good guesses on my 1st #SpaceGeo pic! I'll announce the winner Friday. Do you know your geo?
Was asked what I write down on this small kneeboard. Mostly hardware serial numbers and #ISS locations. #YearInSpace
I wonder what they do here. #NorthAfrica #YearInSpace
Looks serene from @Space_Station, but my thoughts are still with the people affected by the #NepalEarthquake.
#Movie night in micro #Gravity aboard #ISS on our new HD projector which we use for conferences, tech software, etc..
My #bedroom aboard #ISS. All the comforts of #home. Well, most of them. #YearInSpace
#EarthObservations Window on the world. Studying our planet from the cupola on @space_station #NoPlaceLikeHome
Blown away by a dust swept #RedSea. Good morning from the @space_station!  #YearInSpace.
#Calcutta area shimmers in the sunlight. #YearInSpace
Africa. I wonder what these desert sands look like up close?#YearInSpace
Working on #ISS research today & how micro gravity impacts aging and muscles of the C Elegan roundworm. #YearInSpace
Great job @AstroSamantha and @AstroTerry capturing #SpaceX Dragon this morning! #YearInSpace
The varied colors of #Madagascar. #YearInSpace
Sometimes the #world seems to shimmer. #YearInSpace
Congrats @SpaceX and @NASA team on a successful launch! Watched with my crewmates aboard #ISS. #YearInSpace
This #butterfly caught my eye while flying high above the #gulfofmexico. #YearInSpace
Not sure what is going on on this beach in #Mexico but it's a striking image. #YearInSpace
#Earth is breathtaking. #YearInSpace
Hopefully this is pollen or algae and not something man made. #YearInSpace
Madagascar drains its red mud into the Indian Ocean. #YearInSpace
Looks messy, but it's functional. Our #food table on the @space station. What's for breakfast? #YearInSpace
#Patagonia never disappoints. #YearInSpace
#Australia. You are very beautiful. Thanks for being there to brighten our day. #YearInSpace
Good morning Southern #Florida from the #ISS. #YearInSpace
Enjoying Saturday evening dinner with @AstroTerry on the #ISS
#FlashbackFriday Got my 1st EMT training at 16. Emergency medical training on #ISS keeps me 35 years proficient.
.@FLOTUS Thank you. Made it! Moving into crew quarters on @space_station to begin my #yearinspace.
Scott Kelly has posted a photo almost every day since arriving at the ISS. Here, see a selection from his first 30 days

Scott Kelly—NASA
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