Commander Mike Fincke and Sandra Magnus, both from Nasa, and Russian flight engineer Yuri Lonchakov, huddled in the Soyuz for 11 minutes today thinking themselves rather fortunate given a piece of space debris believed to be a remnant of the earlier satellite crash this month almost collided with the international space station. The US and Russian astronauts were able to evacuate to the Russian Soyuz capsule to avoid the near miss. The object which nearly impacted the space station is reported to be a small piece of’ ‘spent payload’ measuring just one third of an inch in diameter, came from a redundant United States rocket motor which if collided with the space station, could have caused rapid de-pressurisation and certain death for the crew.
Strangely though, the call to evacuate was initiated from the United States Air Force from various operating stations located on earth. Their identification of the projectile was then relayed to NASA whom in turn instigated emergency evacuation procedures to the astronauts onboard the space station.
Building of the International Space Station commenced in 1998 and is planned for completion in 2011, with operations continuous up to the time of about 2015.
This most recent event comes a month after a pair satellites clashed in space, 500 miles above Siberia, producing a abundance of debris which endangered the International Space Station. At the time Nasa revealed the risk to the three astronauts on board the space station was very remote. The two satellites the U.S. Iridium and the Russian Cosmos 2251 collided with a obsolete Russian military probe at velocities of at not less than 15,000mph.
In addition, NASA has today postponed the launch of the most recent Discovery shuttle mission to conclude work upon the electricity generation structure on the International Space Station.