Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Space junk narrowly misses ISS

A piece of space debris narrowly missed the International Space Station on Tuesday in a rare incident that forced the six-member crew to scramble to their rescue craft, space agency officials said.

The high-speed object hurtled toward the orbiting lab and likely missed it by just 1,100 feet (335 meters). The crew moved to shelter inside two Soyuz spacecraft 18 minutes before the debris was expected to pass, NASA said.

"It was probably the closest object that has actually come by the space station," said the US space agency's associate administrator for space operations, Bill Gerstenmaier. "We didn't have any information that it was coming until it was very, very close."

The size of the space junk remains unknown and no harm was done by its fly-by.

The six astronauts climbed into the Soyuz craft at 7:50 am Eastern time (1150 GMT), and the expected time of closest approach to the object was 8:08," said NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz.

They spent about half an hour in the Russian space capsules and then went "back to their regular day," she added.

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