back to article ISS crew flees flying space junk

International Space Station crew members were forced to flee to the outpost's escape capsule briefly on Thursday when a rogue piece of space junk came too close for comfort. The debris, a discarded mechanism used in boosting a satellite into higher orbit, missed the ISS without incident. The three astronauts took shelter for …


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  1. Andus McCoatover

    Sheltering in a Soyuz?

    S'OK if there's three bods in the ISS - but what happens when there are six? Two soyuz's? (What the plural for Soyuz is defeats me). Can one carry 6 souls or is it time to sing David Bowie's Space Oddity?

    Maybe they should hide under that big piss-convertor that seems to be a white elephant at the moment, seeing as the STS has to bring up an unspecified spare part for it. (Maybe it's a smaller "collection tube" for the jap bloke...?)


  2. Anonymous Coward

    sounds like the ISS needs a frigging laser :)

    seriously, if you can mount it on a 747, there should be one on the ISS and any trouble some floaters or rogue astronettes with slippy finger could be vaporised (or at least their lost in space handbags).

  3. Gary F

    A laser?

    Nice idea, but what if they missed the targetted debris (travelling at 20,000mph), they could end up baking a small town on Earth somewhere!

    It's clever how they can track so many pieces of fast moving debris so accurately, but it only takes 1 mistake or 1 unnoticed piece to seriously damage or destroy the IIS. Ultimately all the debris will need to be cleared so 1 of 2 things must be invented:

    a) Force shields for all satellites and space craft

    b) Unmanned craft that track and completely disintigrate debris with a new weapon or force it into the Earth's atmosphere to burn up.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I think they need to develop a shield as used to protect the Starship Enterprise.....

    Perhaps they can use some of that alien technology out of area 51...

    How about a high intensity magnetic field generator using supercooled magnets..wouldn't liquid helium to cool them out in space. Generate a massive magnetic field, induce a current in to the oncoming piece of metal ( assuming it's ferous, ok that's this idea's probably aluminium!) and deflect it..

  5. Steve Evans

    Don't worry...

    It'll be coming round again in an hour or so for another go!

  6. Charles Manning

    What happens when there is no warning?

    Sure they get warning when the object is 5 inches across, but can they detect a half inch object?

    At those speeds a half inch object will whip through the ISS without blinking.

    It is likely that small objects pass close by on a reasonably frequent basis but everyone just works on oblivious to the fact.

  7. Jeff

    Re: A laser

    Surprisingly, cooling things in space is much more difficult that it first appears. Having no air means there is bugger all contact or convection cooling, so any excess heat has to be lost as radiant heat. And for that you need big heatsinks with lots of surface area.

  8. Finn

    Hold your fire!

    I do hope nobody actually installs a laser up there, because that wouldn't be very smart. It wouldn't vaporize anything, but turn one big piece of junk into hundread smaller ones. And the small pieces would have total energy (and thus speed) of what the big piece had plus anything laser managed to pump into them! So instead of one big dent on the side, ISS would have a hundread small holes, making it look like a sieve.

    That is the problem with space junk. More you shoot it, more you get. More energy you spend, faster it gets (and thus making it able to reach higher orbits and do more damage). Only way to get rid of it is actually go up there and somehow collect it, possibly dropping it into the atmosphere afterwards. Or at least stop making more, as everything in near orbits slows down over time and thus plummets to Earth eventually.

    This will be done in near future. Almost immediately after something really important gets hit, because tradition calls us to wait for the obvious to happen, before doing something to prevent it.

  9. Jan

    ...according to Fox News

    > ..according to Fox News the ISS had 7 people on board!

    Thats because the three aboard are about as smart as seven of their average viewers.

  10. this

    How much safer in the Soyuz?

    Since the debris could hit the soyuz with only a slightly lower probability than the space station, (presumably it's smaller, but just as vulnerable to being hit by a 20,000mph piece of junk), I wouldn't find it reassuringly safe in there. More a kind of whistling in the dark.

  11. Steve Bush


    Or was it the iss passed the object at 20k mps?

  12. Peter Stocker

    Magnetic Shield

    Wouldn't a magnetic shield just attract any space junk?

  13. Frank

    I Wonder.

    All the crew got into the Soyuz escape capsule.......and stayed there. What would happen if the debris hit the Soyuz? Is it armoured and designed to withstand a worst case debris collision?

    Maybe the Soyuz is positioned so the main station shields it from the flight track of most orbiting debris up there? A five inch chunk of metal traveling at 5 miles a second would punch through the ISS without stopping.

    According to the article, they've had to shelter in the Soyuz five times so far. I suppose it's the 'least probable harm' option and I just have to admire them.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Plural of Soyuz

    Guessing but Soyuzij ... nominative plural masculine I think...will check with my Russian colleagues later

    Paris...instrumental singular feminine .... I guess she knows her Russian grammar ...

    ...ok, weak Paris is early in the morning...

  15. Steve
    Paris Hilton


    Like there really is a space station up there, in space, like, ummm!!

    Paris cos she'd believe anything!!

  16. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Why is the other craft safer?

    Is it just a smaller target or is it tougher?

  17. Roger Jenkins


    'The 5-inch chunk of metal is estimated to have passed by the station at nearly 5.5 miles per second (20,000mph)'.

    So I assume this space junk was traveling across the ISS at 90degrees to the ISS's direction of travel or its speed in relation to ISS wouldn't be 5.5MPS. If that's the case then for them to near miss again would be extremely improbable. So logic tells me anyway.

    I'll leave my worries by the doorstep now.

  18. General A. Annoying

    It's only a matter of time...

    before we're stuck on this ball of dirt surrounded by a shroud of our own junk.

    Maybe it'll be an ideal way to solve "Global Warming".


  19. Mr Nobody


    The plural of Soyuz is Soya.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What if...

    ...the debris had hit the lifeboat?

  21. Parax


    The 5-inch chunk of metal is estimated to have passed by the station at nearly 5.5 miles per second (20,000mph).

    Is that speed relative to the earth or the station? its not such a concern if its velocity is only say 5mph difference from that of the ISS...

    Bear in mind that the Shuttle docks with the ISS In excess of 17,200 miles per hour (with respect to the earth). and this is normal!

  22. Steven Davison


    Is there no value in collecting and recycling this stuff floating around up there?

  23. Anonymous Coward

    This isn't looking too good

    for fending off the alien fleet

  24. Alistair
    Paris Hilton

    Should've stuck it further up

    So they are tracking the bigger than 10cm objects. That's not to say that a 1cm or even 1mm chunk of alloy traveling at 20,000mphs won't give them a seriously bad day.

    Paris because, well its Friday okay? Do I need a proper reason?

  25. Allan

    More Shields

    Shields up, Keptin?

  26. Martin

    @Shield, 00:00

    It doesen't need to be ferrous to have a current induced in it, after all non-ferrous copper seems to work quite well in just about every induction-based machine there is...

  27. Sordid Details


    So they can't (or don't) track anything smaller than 10cm? Can you imagine the damage a cricket ball would do if it hit at 20,000mph?? Let's hope it doesn't hit the Soyuz lifeboat...

  28. Anonymous Coward

    @ RotaCyclic

    Nah, what you need is some carbon nanotubes or a phased tachion burst

  29. Peyton


    Hey man, give Fox News a break - I don't think they've figured out this whole "google" thing yet...

  30. Poopie McStinklestein
    Black Helicopters

    Soyuzi, tovarish?

    Two soyuz's? (What the plural for Soyuz is defeats me)

    Soyuzi, I would think. Maybe with a little silent "b" at the end.

  31. David Shepherd

    @Sheltering in a Soyuz?

    Seem to think that one of the extra modules that they want to fit before space shuttle stops is an extra Soyuz docking port for precisely this reason ... they want to increase crew but until they can dock another Soyuz then they are limited to 3 crew ... except when SS is also docked

  32. nick perry
    Paris Hilton


    Just out of curiosity;

    1. Dose it come with life jackets.

    2. Do they have the little whistles on them too.

    3. If it was used, would the nearest NASA shuttle be able to pick it up or just wait til it hits ground.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    20,000 mph relative to the ISS? Are we sure?

  34. Dave


    "wouldn't liquid helium to cool them out in space"

    Actually, space isn't cold, there just isn't any atmosphere to hold/carry heat. Therefore any item that gets hot is going to get even hotter in space.

  35. Yorkshirepudding

    obligatory trek quote

    "My God.... SHIELDS!!! SHIELDS!!!!!

    one thinks they would have fitted the things with a red alert bulb and klaxon? or even a blue alert?

  36. Anonymous Coward

    The aliens are totally

    gonna blow us out of the water if this is how we deal with a little bit of junk. How are we gonna deal with the blaster rays? Cowering in a sace bucket? Our defence is a white flag right?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Peter Stocker

    "Wouldn't a magnetic shield just attract any space junk?"

    Not if in true Star Trek fashion you "inverse the polarity", then it would repel, but since there's no weight in space, I think that could also knock the ISS out of it's orbit.

    Disclaimer: Pure guess work, I'm not a physicist.

  38. Dave

    Obligatory Red Dwarf quote

    Time to go to Brown Alert.

  39. Mike Bronze badge


    the one thing that seems to work well in space is solar power, would it be practical to make a huge electromagnet powered by solar power, send it in a low orbit, then any small pieces of crap up there would be attracted to it and it would change their orbits pulling them down and causing them to fall to earth much sooner than they otherwise would?

    it wouldn't effect functional satellites at least, because they are rather large so the same force that might divert a screw probably wouldn't effect a satellite much

    of course i have no idea how practical that would be, ie. how much of a difference a huge magnet 1 mile away would make passing in the opposite direction (so only at 1 mile very briefly) or of course how much of it is non-magnetic, but perhaps it is a possibility?


    but blue alert would mean changing the bulb!

  40. Yorkshirepudding

    @ mike

    I would just feel more comfortable if I know that we're all on our toes because everyone's aware it's a blue-alert situation

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Insert title here

    @Dave, Nah, it's a bit more serious that a Brown Alert, I'd ramp it up to a Beige Alert.

    @Mike, Are you serious, a space junk collector/bin lorry, the ISS would spend all its time dodging the wheelie bins if my bin men are anything to go by. When they collect my bin, returning it to the kerb-side seems to mean an area anywhere from the middle of the road to the middle of my garden (via what ever is growing in the border) plus or minus 5 houses up or down the road.

    Friday the 13th, it’s a wonder the junk didn’t hit the Soyuz

    Paris, I’ll bet she could accommodate 3 men as well

  42. Simon Beckett

    "inverse the polarity"

    I thought that was Dr Who?

  43. Ron Luther
    Thumb Up

    More overtime pay for Hachimaki!

    Fun TV Series revolving around a group of space garbage collectors:

  44. Alistair


    Your best approach is a divide-and-conquer solution.

    1) big things: track them continuously and take evasive manouvers^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H action

    2) medium things: pray

    3) small things: vaporize on final approach

    So that's one out of three covered so far.

    Of course, we could just give up on manned space flight.

  45. Chris C

    They don't know?

    "Crew members have sheltered from debris in a Soyaz as many as five times in the past, NASA said."

    "As many as"?!? Am I the only one bothered by the fact that NASA doesn't even know how many times the crew members fled to the escape pod? In other words, even NASA doesn't know what goes on up there. I'm so glad my tax dollars are hard at work.

  46. kain preacher


    They need a plasma cannon.

    Ok I know thats impossible but how about we put rush Limbaugh confront of the space station to act as a shield. Whats thats ?? You say his gravitational pull would destroy the space station >?>?

    Back to the drawing board

  47. Anonymous Coward

    Upon further inspection

    It was found that the debris was actually the shape of an astronaut's tool bag...

  48. mittfh


    To all those invoking Red Dwarf alerts: You guys do realise that changing the alert necessarily involves changing the light bulb?

    Sorry, couldn't resist...

  49. Robert Heffernan

    Yeah! A Laser!!

    Mounting a laser on the ISS would probably be a good idea, You wouldn't need to burn the junk to a crisp, just give it's orbit a nudge so it starts falling back to earth. Smaller objects would need less of a nudge. Put it under computer control and you would have a pretty effective cleaner. It wouldn't exactly be quick but at least it's better than cowering inside a tincan praying.

    Flames, It should be obvious.

  50. Jeremy

    Speed, size & Soyez

    Two things:

    #1: Given the speed of the possible space junk the hole it's going to make in the side is going to be about the same size as the bit of junk. I think a small bit would be ok 'cos they could lock down the breached section(s) before too much air escaped. Bigger bits mean more air gets out. Of course if it happens to fly through your astronaut or hits a few sections things may be bad....

    #2: They probably hide in the Soyez as if everything goes horribly wrong (fires/major structural failure/hole too big to patch and wrong side of door) they can just eject and land safely on earth. If the Soyez does get hit then they're screwed... but if anywhere else does that's the best place to be.

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