Science

Astronauts take shelter as debris passes dangerously close to space station

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station were forced to take shelter in a pair of space capsules Monday morning after a cloud of space debris threatened to pass near the orbiting outpost.

Mission controllers are closely monitoring the debris from a recent unconfirmed event, but advised the astronauts to seek refuge this morning in the event that a collision would force them to undock from the space station immediately and return to Earth.

NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron, along with Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency, sheltered in their Crew Dragon spacecraft, while Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov, Pyotr Dubrov, and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei sheltered in their Soyuz capsule.

The crew members have since emerged from their spacecraft but mission controllers advised them to keep some hatches between the main space station modules closed because the orbiting lab will continue to pass through fields of debris.

The U.S. Department of Defense tracks more than 27,000 pieces of space junk, including approximately 23,000 objects larger than a softball. Over the course of the space station’s history, NASA has had to perform more than 25 special maneuvers to dodge orbital debris that passed too close to the orbiting outpost.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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