NASA confirms near-collision with ISS was due to Russian anti-satellite test

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The space debris that astronauts had to shelter from this week was caused by a Russian anti-satellite mission. Russia blew up one of its old satellites, but that set off a cloud of space debris that potentially endangered the ISS.

The US space agency NASA confirms the incident. According to director Bill Nelson, the seven astronauts on the space station had to seek rescue because of a possible collision between the ISS and “debris generated by a Russian Anti-Satellite Test.” During the test, Russia blew up one of its old, no longer operational satellites with a missile. This created a cloud of space debris. Of these, 1500 parts could be tracked, but ‘hundreds of thousands’ of smaller parts could not. The satellite that was blown up was Kosmos-1408, a spy satellite with a mass of 2,200 kilograms and launched in 1982 by the then Soviet Union.

On Monday afternoon, the astronauts present had to take shelter from a possible collision with the space debris. There are seven astronauts aboard the space station. Two of them are Russian. Russia is the International Space Station’s second-largest partner after America, and cosmonauts have been permanently resident at the station since 2000. The Russian space agency Roscosmos says on Twitter that the orbits of the objects no longer pose a threat to the space station.

In the event of a potential collision, the American astronauts must seal the modules between the space stations and then take shelter in a Soyuz or Dragon capsule with which they also return to Earth. Russian cosmonauts do not close their modules. The astronauts ended up hiding for two hours.

The US government condemns the test in harsh words. Foreign Minister Antony Blinken does that on twitter. He called the test “reckless” and condemned the fact that the test endangers astronauts’ lives and the integrity of the International Space Station and “the interests of all countries.”

NASA is also incredibly tough; the space agency generally has a good relationship with its Russian counterpart. “I am outraged by this irresponsible and destabilizing action,” wrote Bill Nelson. “With its long history of space travel, it is unimaginable that Russia would endanger the lives of not only American and international, but also its own cosmonauts.” Nelson also calls the test reckless and dangerous, and also mentions that the Chinese space station and the taikonauts present there have been endangered.

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