NASA postponed a spacewalk scheduled to venture outside the International Space Station at the last minute on Wednesday after a large piece of Russian space debris came dangerously close to the orbital outpost.
NASA astronauts Frank Rubio and Josh Casada were preparing to exit the US-built Quest airlock. International Space Station Early Wednesday (December 21) to install new solar arrays when the mission control team ordered them to stop work. Instead, the space station will perform an emergency maneuver to get out of the way of a hunk of space debris On track to get dangerously close to the lab later in the day. The spacewalk was eventually rescheduled for Thursday, December 22nd.
The wreckage in question is a piece of a Russian missile, an 11-foot-wide (3.35-meter) Fregat upper stage used in Soyuz Zenith launchers. The junk was expected to come within a quarter of a mile (0.4 kilometer) of the station later in the day, sounding a “red” alert at the loudest level, Dan Huot, a NASA spokesman at Mission Control at Johnson Space Center in Houston. . he said during the live commentary.
“This is a piece of debris that has been tracking for the past two days and its tracking data has always been in our green or yellow range, which doesn’t necessitate a maneuver,” Huot said. “But this morning, go red, and as soon as we get to red, we have to take action, whether it’s a wrecking maneuver or some other precaution to help keep the crew safe.”
Huot added that the decision to cancel the spacewalk was made around 5 a.m. EST (1000 GMT). The ground control team is now preparing to steer the station to safety using thrusters aboard the Russian Progress cargo spacecraft currently docked in the Russian part of the station. The maneuver is expected to take place at 8:42 a.m. EST (1342 GMT).
The space station is not in danger from the debris, Huot said, which is expected to make its closest approach to the space lab at 11:17 a.m. EDT (1617 GMT).
NASA will be looking for a new slot for the required spacewalk, which could happen later this week.
“The crew will have to reschedule their schedule for today, so they don’t expect to see a spacewalk today,” Huot said. “The crew is not in danger. This isn’t the first time we’ve done this and it won’t be the last. These are just some of the realities of working in low Earth orbit.”
The incident comes about a week after the big one Coolant leak from the Russian Soyuz The crew of the capsule, which brought NASA’s Frank Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petlin to the space station in September. Experts have blamed the leak, which may have made the capsule unsafe for taking astronauts home, on a piece of space debris or a meteorite, though an official investigation is still underway.
If the fears are confirmed, the space station may be the first in its history without the ability to bring her entire crew safely home In the event of a serious accident on board.
“It’s never been a dull day aboard the International Space Station,” Huot said.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4 p.m. EST to note that NASA has rescheduled the spacewalk for Thursday, December 22. You could Watch the spacewalk live online, courtesy of NASA TV, starting at 7 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT). The spacewalk will begin at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT).
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