Space Station Threatened

But Only Threatened!

The International Space Station was evacuated today for about ten minutes, because of the threat posed by orbiting space debris.

A piece of space debris about a third of an inch long forced the crew of the international space station to take shelter in their return capsule Thursday, the first time an orbiting hazard has required an evacuation, NASA said.

This piece of space junk was estimated to be about 9 mm. in size, about a third of an inch.

The actual chance of a collision was never high, but potential damage such an event would cause justifies the precaution.

The debris itself was not from the collision of two satellites last month, but from a piece of a used booster called a Payload Assist Module, a device used to boost satellites from low Earth orbit up to geosynchronous orbit.   It’s described in Bad Astronomy as “basically a piece of string, the cross-section is large for its mass.”   The satellite in question was launched in 1993 to help provide GPS.

How close the debris came to colliding with the station is not yet known.

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