On Monday, November 15th, Russia launched an anti-satellite missile test which created enough debris to endanger the astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS). There are two Russian astronauts or cosmonauts onboard the ISS as well. As a result of the debris, all the astronauts took refuge on board a spacecraft from 2 AM EST to 4 AM EST. The ISS orbited around the Earth twice (once every 90 minutes) which also went through or near the plume.
Luckily no damage to the ISS or the astronauts. They were given the go-ahead to return back to the ISS where they would continue to monitor the debris and still on high alert. The astronauts also sealed up all the hatches to several modules of the ISS.
It’s largely frowned upon to destroy satellites in space as not only could the debris endanger the astronauts on board but also the people on Earth. There are thousands of debris orbiting Earth from old satellites and space junk is a serious problem.
There is a precedence of a country shooting down a satellite and endangering astronauts onboard such as India and China. You can read more about what’s called anti-satellite tests or ASAT here. The best way to go about decommissioning satellites that don’t pose any immediate danger is to use the last bit of fuel to crash it into the ocean or away from civilization where then it’ll be retrieved. The other option is to send it further away from Earth in case there isn’t enough fuel to bring it back down to Earth. It takes a lot more fuel to “slow down” the satellite and crash it into the ocean vs. sending it further off into space. Read more here about how NASA describes both options.
All in all this event gave everyone a scare and NASA has responded with this statement:
“Like Secretary Blinken, I’m outraged by this irresponsible and destabilizing action. With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS, but also their own cosmonauts. Their actions are reckless and dangerous, threatening as well the Chinese space station and the taikonauts on board.”NASA Administrator Bill Nelson
Perhaps, now things will be taken a little more seriously between nations to figure out how to work together when it comes to space as actions like this not only endanger other astronauts but their own astronauts too.