ORLANDO, Fla. – The International Space Station made a space debris shuffle Tuesday evening to avoid getting smacked by one of the millions of pieces of space junk in low-Earth orbit.
NASA said mission managers determined a piece of space debris could come within less than a mile from the football-field length spacecraft and made the pro-active decision to move the station.
Due to the late notice of the incoming space trash, the three astronauts on board were directed to move to the Russian segment of the station to be closer to the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft out of an abundance of caution, according to NASA.
The space agency said at no time were the astronauts living and working on the station in any danger.
This wasn’t the first or the last time the ISS will move to avoid space debris.
These items floating around Earth can be human-made in the form of leftover components of a space mission or a satellite no longer in use. According to NASA, low-Earth orbit is a space junk yard with millions of pieces of human-made garbage flying at speeds around 18,000 miles per hour.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the ISS has changed its orbit three times in 2020 alone due to space debris hazards.
The Orbital Debris Program Office, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, leads the development of national and international policies and technology focused on mitigating debris risks. According to the ODPO, there are about 500,000 marble-sized debris objects predicted to be in Earth orbit and more than 1 million objects less than 1 milometer or smaller.
The @Space_Station has maneuvered 3 times in 2020 to avoid debris. In the last 2 weeks, there have been 3 high concern potential conjunctions. Debris is getting worse! Time for Congress to provide @CommerceGov with the $15 mil requested by @POTUS for the Office of Space Commerce.— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) September 22, 2020
“In the last two weeks, there have been three high concern potential conjunctions. Debris is getting worse! Time for Congress to provide the U.S. Commerce Department with the $15 million requested by POTUS for the Office of Space Commerce,” Bridenstine said in a tweet Tuesday.
The mot recent episode of WKMG’s podcast Space Curious offered a look at the problem space junk creates and what’s being done about it, click here to read more and listen to the full episode below.