Mar
12
2009

Space Station Debris Collision Sensationalism

Just a few minutes ago, the crew of the International Space Station were evacuated to a Soyuz capsule (for possible emergency reentry back to earth) due to the risk of a piece of orbital debris striking the station.

The correct story involves a piece of debris around 1/3 of an inch (8mm) in size travelling at high speed. The piece was predicted to pass within 3 miles (5km) of the space station and was considered to have a low risk of collision (but still a risk). The THREE man crew spent 11 minutes in a Soyuz escape capsule just in case the station was hit. The debris was detected too late for the space station to perform a collision avoidance maneuver (these are normally done days in advance).

Two two objects involved were ISS (Norad ID 25544) and PAM-D DEB (Norad ID 25090). The orbital separation (the distance between each orbit) of the two objects was 2km and the closest point between them was 8.8km. Note that the space station is traveling around 7.5km per second and these distances were calculated from data supplied by NORAD. At their combined speed, there was only 0.5 seconds separation.

Check out how the story has been reported around the world:
The crew of the international space station survived a close call with space junk Thursday.

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2316065.ece
Large chunks (plural) of debris??
“..ASTRONAUTS fled their space station today fearing it could be crushed by large chunks of space debris. Nasa officials said the scrap is large enough to cause significant damage to the International Space Station..”

http://www.postchronicle.com/news/original/article_212214695.shtml
Eighteen member crew?? – It’s actually 3 members of the Expedition 18 crew.
“..NASA has revealed that the eighteen-member crew at the International Space Station has been evacuated from the ISS due to precautionary measures…”

http://www.wfaa.com/sharedcontent/dws/wfaa/latestnews/stories/wfaa090312_wz_spacedebris.2a8dceb8.html
Two member crew??
“..NASA says the two-person crew aboard the International Space Station took shelter in an escape capsule after some space debris was predicted to come dangerously close to the orbiting laboratory. ..”

http://www.news24.com/News24/Technology/News/0,,2-13-1443_2484541,00.html
A cloud of debris??
“..The crew of the International Space Station on Thursday entered its Soyuz capsule to prepare for evacuation in case of a collision with a debris cloud, Nasa said…”

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6307525.html
4 inch long debris?
“..The debris, about 4 inches long, whizzed within three miles of the orbital outpost at 11:39 a.m., CDT, causing no damage…”

http://scienceblogs.com/authority/2009/03/debris_threat_to_international.php
How large is moderately large?
“..A moderately large piece of space debris has only recently been identified as a threat to the International Space Station – too recently for the station to be moved out of the way. The object is now projected to pass close enough to the ISS to put it into the high threat category…”

Written by John in: Astronomy |

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