Aug 3, 2009 | 1
A tool bag lost by a spacewalking astronaut in November appears to have met its end after more than eight months in orbit. The chief scientist at NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office says the tool kit should have reentered the atmosphere this morning. "We are waiting on a post-reentry assessment of time and location," to be completed later today by military space monitors, says Nicholas Johnson, who is based at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The bag's anticipated reentry was noted over the weekend by Universe Today, which predicted a fireball over the Pacific Ocean at 9:16 a.m. (Eastern Daylight Time) as the kit completely burned up in the atmosphere.
Mar 16, 2009
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) may have to maneuver the station to evade flying junk as the space shuttle Discovery closes in for docking. The warning comes just four days after the crew was forced to take refuge in an escape capsule as a last-minute risk of debris strike was discovered.
Like last week's chunk of debris, which passed without incident as the three ISS members huddled in the station's Soyuz capsule, tomorrow's threatening object is not related to last month's collision between a Russian satellite and a commercial communications satellite.
Mar 12, 2009
Astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) took refuge in a Soyuz escape capsule as a threatening piece of debris passed by without incident today, NASA announced. The 13-centimeter (five-inch) piece of debris, which made its closest approach at 12:39 P.M. (Eastern Daylight Time), originated from a 1993 launch and was not related to last month's satellite crash, says Gene Stansbery, orbital debris program manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
According to the NASA Web site, the precautionary measure was necessary because notice of the approach came too late to perform an evasive maneuver. The object's relatively small size and highly elliptical orbit made it difficult to track, Stansbery says. He could not provide a quantitative assessment of the level of risk faced by the ISS.
Feb 13, 2009 | 4
Officials say that the crash this week between a U.S. commercial communications satellite and a defunct Russian satellite generated possibly thousands of pieces of debris that will hang around in low-Earth orbit for years. Vladimir Solovyov, chief of the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS), told reporters today that "debris from the collision could stay in orbit for up to 10,000 years, and even tiny fragments threaten spacecraft, because both travel at such a high orbiting speed." But Nicholas Johnson, NASA's chief scientist for space debris, says that's not correct. "Most of the debris will be down in decades, some perhaps as long as 100 or more years," Johnson says. He adds that NASA is waiting on military orbit monitors to assess the scene before making an estimated debris count.
Feb 11, 2009 | 19
A commercial satellite collided with a Russian satellite over Siberia yesterday, yielding a cloud of fragments, according to a NASA scientist tracking space debris. The collision between the commercial satellite, belonging to the American communications firm Iridium, and the Russian satellite, believed to be defunct based on its advanced age, was the first of its kind, says Nicholas Johnson, chief scientist at the NASA Orbital Debris Program at Johnson Space Center in Houston. (A spokesperson for Iridium said a statement on the incident would be released shortly.)*
"In the past almost 20 years, there have been three other accidental collisions between objects in orbit, but they've all been very minor," Johnson says. "The most debris ever produced in an event was like four debris, and this is two intact spacecraft colliding, and we have hundreds of debris out there. We don't know exactly how many yet."
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