Because of the abrupt appearance of a debris cloud in orbit, all seven astronauts currently aboard the International Space Station have been compelled to take refuge inside their separate ships. The ISS is currently functioning correctly, and all seven crew members are healthy and safe, according to the information received thus far. However, the rapid emergence of an orbital debris field forced the crew to seek refuge earlier this morning. The mysterious disintegration of the defunct Russian satellite Kosmos-1408 is now the most likely source of the orbital debris cloud.
According to Russian state-owned news agency TASS, NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer are sheltering inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon docked to the ISS, while Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov, Pyotr Dubrov, and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei are inside a Soyuz capsule. If the ISS is destroyed by debris, the astronauts could utilize this spacecraft to return to Earth safely.
A live feed from NASA mission control is available, letting you watch events unfold in real-time. The crew is “routinely completing operations according to the mission program,” according to a tweet from Roscosmos, and the menacing “object” has “gone away from the ISS orbit.” The debris field is referred to as an “object” by the Russian space agency. Roscosmos said that the “station is in the green zone.”
“Friends, everything is normal with us!” Shkaplerov tweeted. “We’re still working on the program.” Despite these assurances, operations on the International Space Station are far from ordinary. Countdowns for each debris field transit are provided by mission controllers regularly (i.e., the closest approach of the debris field to the ISS). Controllers gave the NASA crew instructions to temporarily enter the Columbus module to perform some quick tasks and collect personal items if they had to stay inside Dragon overnight at 10:32 a.m. ET (a possible indication that this could take a while).
The debris field transits used to happen every 93 minutes, but now they occur every 30 to 40 minutes. According to Harvard University astronomer Jonathan McDowell, “there will be a huge error bar on whether there is the risk to ISS. Thus the caution,” presuming the debris field is created by a broken-up satellite. The debris field’s origin is unknown, although it appears to coincide with rumors that Russia has launched an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons test. The target, according to Gunter Krebs, a physicist, and editor of Gunter’s Space Page, was an “ancient Soviet Tselina-D SIGINT satellite called Kosmos-1408 (1982-092A).
Launched in 1982, which has been dead for decades,” and “14 debris particles have been detected.” “So far, no confirmation from official sources,” Krebs cautions. The United States Space Force is “aware of a debris-generating event in outer space” and is “working to characterize the debris field, as well as ensuring that all space-faring nations have the information necessary to maneuver satellites if impacted,” according to New York Times space reporter Joey Roulette.
In 2019, India attempted something similar, joining the United States, Russia, and China in testing anti-satellite weaponry. The employment of weapons of mass devastation in space is now prohibited under the United Nations Outer Space Treaty signed in 1967.