The ISS avoids colliding (and having to exchange information) with Russian space debris

On Monday night, the International Space Station saw a Russian space junk in its rearview mirror, which was closer than it seemed, and fired its thrusters to avoid an accident.

The collision could have been dangerous, not to mention inconvenient, considering the time it takes to get off a space station and exchange insurance information.

“This afternoon, the International Space Station Progress 81 thrusters fired for 5 minutes, 5 seconds in a Default Debris Avoidance Maneuver (PDAM) to provide the complex with an extra measure of distance away from the intended track of a debris fragment. debris from Russian Cosmos 1408,” NASA said in its usual style of a totally easy-to-read statement.

It was a bit close, but close by spatial standards (not like when you narrowly dodge a grocery cart in a parking lot). The piece of debris would have passed within 3 miles (5 kilometers) of the station, so it slipped away into a higher orbit.

The space junk wasn’t the result of Russian cosmonauts taking out the trash or some guy in Moscow putting too much lighter fluid on his barbecue. Instead, it is because Russia blew up a now-missing Cosmos 1408 satellite in a highly criticized 2021 missile test.

That explosion created some 1,500 debris at the time, and US officials condemned the anti-satellite missile test, calling it a “reckless and dangerous act.” But that is said of many things.

Space junk is becoming a bit of a problem, though it’s not likely to dent your car on the road anytime soon. There are large chunks like non-functional satellites and numerous smaller chunks like bits of busted satellites. Sometimes they even collide with each other and create even more pieces of space junk, like in the broom scene in Fancy.

In any case, the International Space Station successfully avoided this fragment and will probably have to avoid more in the near future until someone sweeps up a bit.