United States Angry with Russia: Reckless Missile Test Endangers ISS Crew
The United States is angry because Russia conducted a “dangerous and irresponsible” missile test. First, Russia blew up one of its own satellites, sending hundreds of thousands of large and small pieces of scrap into space.
Astronauts and cosmonauts on the International Space Station (ISS) retreated to guarded capsules as a precaution. “That debris is bullets that fly criss-cross through the universe at 28,000 km per hour,” says aerospace engineer Stijn Ilsen.
On Monday, the ISS flight control team received a report about an exploded satellite. The debris posed a real threat to the 7 astronauts and cosmonauts on board. They had to resort to safety procedures and retreat to the capsules normally used when returning to Earth. This is standard in case evacuation may be necessary.
Russia had fired an anti-satellite weapon (called an ASAT missile) at an old, disused orbiting satellite to test the weapon. The US is not happy about that. Foreign Minister Antony Blinken is furious. “A reckless test that endangers the lives of astronauts, the integrity of the ISS and the interests of all countries,” it said on Twitter.
The American space agency NASA is also outraged. “With its long history of space travel, it is unimaginable that Russia would endanger not only American and other astronauts on the ISS, but also its own cosmonauts,” said director Bill Nelson. “The action is reckless and dangerous and also threatens the Chinese space station and the taikonauts on board.”
The ISS crew currently consists of four Americans, one German and two Russians. They were awakened after the destruction of the missile and had to close security shutters of several modules. Then they had to retreat to the capsules. The ISS moves through or near the cloud of scrap every 90 minutes. After the third pass, NASA judged it safe enough for the crew to return to the space station itself.
More than 1,500 large and detectable debris has been registered so far, according to the US. In the long run, hundreds of thousands of small particles will continue to float around as waste that can pose risks to space travel.
“There are thousands of pieces of garbage floating around in space. Mostly old satellites or rocket stages, big things of a few tons. They float around uncontrollably, but you can make predictions. You know where that garbage is, you can make sure you get there. does not collide with,” says aerospace engineer Stijn Ilsen. “In such an explosion, where an object of a few tons shatters into thousands of pieces of a few grams or kilograms, you get bullets that fly criss-cross at 28,000 kilometers per hour. That is very difficult to predict, and the possible damage can be very big. Such a small object at such a speed can go right through the ISS.”