Space debris sends station astronauts into docked capsules

Space debris threatens the seven astronauts aboard the International Space Station, forcing them to seek refuge in their anchored capsules

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Space debris on Monday threatened the seven astronauts aboard the International Space Station and forced them to seek refuge in their anchored capsules.

The U.S. space agency said it tracked a field of orbital debris, the apparent result of some sort of satellite crash.

The astronauts withdrew in their anchored capsules early Monday, after being told of the threat at the last minute. Mission Control had them close the hatches between the space station rooms again later in the day, as a safety precaution.

“We are actively working to characterize the field of waste and will continue to ensure that all space nations have the information necessary to maneuver satellites if they are affected,” the space command said in a statement.

NASA officials have not given any immediate comment.

“Friends, everything is normal with us!” tweeted the head of the space station, Russian Anton Shkaplerov.

But the cloud of debris appeared to pose a threat on every passing lane. Mission Control informed the crew that the latest passport was expected to last seven minutes, prompting them to interrupt their scientific research in order to take security measures again.

About 20,000 pieces of space debris are being tracked. including old and damaged satellites. Last week, a fragment from an ancient Chinese satellite – the target of a missile attack test in 2007 – came uncomfortably close. While it later turned out to be no threat, NASA made the space station move anyway.

The space station is currently home to four Americans, a German and two Russians.

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