ISS given 90 minutes to evacuate following near-miss with space debris

Hurtling through space at 4.7 miles per second, the International Space Station has certainly seen its fair share of collisions with debris. However, a near-miss with an old Russian weather satellite yesterday evening had NASA on tenterhooks as it prepared to evacuate ISS crew.

ISS given 90 minutes to evacuate following near-miss with space debris

Having been given just an hour and a half to shut down the station and get themselves to safety, ISS crew were instructed by NASA to move to the Soyuz spacecraft and seal themselves off from the rest of the station. This is the fourth such incident in the ISS’s 17-year history.

Space debris is a big problem for the ISS and other spacecraft and satellites. While the ISS can generally withstand the impacts of smaller debris and manoeuvre out of the way of larger objects, at roughly the size of a football pitch the ISS isn’t graceful. Thankfully, the chunk of old Russian weather satellite passed by without smashing the multi-billion-dollar station to smithereens – but it was clearly large enough to cause NASA concern.

As technology advances and more satellites are launched, more debris will clutter up near-Earth space. One solution is to attach a giant laser to the underside of the ISS, although considering the ISS’s age, perhaps an alternative solution would be better.

The European Space Agency has plans to build a “moon village” on the dark side of the Moon to replace the ageing space station, reports Motherboard. While it sounds absurd, the ESA’s plan does make some sense. Tucked away on the opposite side of the moon researchers would be safe from space debris. They could easily contact and observe missions to Mars and Moon-based telescopes, and would be able to see further and clearer into space due to being shaded from Earth’s radiation.

It’s certainly an interesting idea, but with such stunning views of Earth from the space station it’s a wonder anyone would want to be in darkness on the Moon. Let’s hope that if it does go through then they at least call it the Pink Floyd Station.

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