- ASSOCIATED PRESS
Russian test blamed for space junk threatening space station
November 16, 2021
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A Russian weapons test created more than 1,500 pieces of space junk now threatening the seven astronauts aboard the International Space Station, according to U.S. officials who called the strike reckless and irresponsible.
The State Department confirmed Monday that the debris was from an old Russian satellite destroyed by the missile.
“Needless to say, I’m outraged. This is unconscionable,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told The Associated Press. “It’s unbelievable that the Russian government would do this test and threaten not only international astronauts, but their own cosmonauts that are on board the station” as well as the three people on China’s space station.
Nelson said the astronauts now face four times greater risk than normal. And that’s based on debris big enough to track, with hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces going undetected — “any one of which can do enormous damage if it hits in the right place.”
In condemning Russia, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said satellites were also now in jeopardy.
The test clearly demonstrates that Russia “despite its claims of opposing the weaponization of outer space, is willing to … imperil the exploration and use of outer space by all nations through its reckless and irresponsible behavior,” Blinken said in a statement.
There was no immediate comment late Monday from Russia about the missile strike.
Once the threat became clear early Monday morning, the four Americans, one German and two Russians on board were ordered to immediately seek shelter in their docked capsules. They spent two hours in the two capsules, finally emerging only to have to close and reopen hatches to the station’s individuals labs on every orbit, or 1½ hours, as they passed near or through the debris.
By the end of the day, only the hatches to the central core of the station remained open, as the crew slept, according to Nelson.
Even a fleck of paint can do major damage when orbiting at 28,000 kph. Something big, upon impact, could be catastrophic.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. has repeatedly raised concerns with Russia about doing a satellite test.
“We are going to continue to make very clear that we won’t tolerate this kind of activity,” he told reporters.
NASA Mission Control said the heightened threat could continue to interrupt the astronauts’ science research and other work. Four of the seven crew members arrived at the orbiting outpost Thursday night.
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