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NASA says space station at increased risk thanks to India blowing up satellite

Astronaut James H. Newman waves during a spacewalk preparing for release of the first combined elements of the International Space Station. (NASA/TNS)

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine did not mince his words when asked about India’s recent mission to destroy a satellite in low-orbit, calling it a “terrible, terrible thing” that has put the International Space Station at an increased risk.

Bridenstine added that the threat from small pieces of debris and space junk from the destruction of the small satellite to the orbiting laboratory is “unacceptable.” The NASA chief made the remarks during a Monday, April 1 town hall with employees of the space agency.

“What we are tracking right now are objects big enough to track at about 10 centimeters or bigger, and about 60 pieces have been tracked,” Bridenstine said. “Of those 60, we know that 24 of them are going above the apogee of the International Space Station.

“That is a terrible, terrible thing to create an event that sends debris in an apogee that goes above the International Space Station. That kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight that we need to see happen.”

The video of the town hall can be seen embedded below, Bridenstine speaks on the threat to the space station and the Indian space agency’s mission at about the 8-minute mark:

Transcript of the town hall can be found on NASA’s website and by clicking here. Bridenstine added that the risk of debris colliding with the space station has increased by 44 percent since the satellite was destroyed in late March.

For those in the dark, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that scientists with the country successfully shot down a low-orbit satellite about 186 miles away. Business Insider reports that India joining the U.S., Russia and China as countries that have used anti-satellite weapons or technology.

Reuters reports that the U.S. conducted the first anti-satellite mission back in 1959.

On the flip side, India has said that the space debris should disappear and burn out in Earth’s atmosphere within the next 45 days. The chief of the country’s defense research organization told Reuters that the low-orbit satellite was targeting with the goal of reducing debris.

“That’s why we did it at lower altitude — it will vanish in no time,” G. Satheesh Reddy told the outlet.

“The debris moving right now. How much debris, we are trying to work out, but our calculations are it that it should be dying down within 45 days.”

Reuters reports that the satellite shot down was a military’ one and that the 1,653-pound device was launched in January with the goal of shooting it down.

Bridenstine wasn’t the only U.S. official to publicly speak on the execution of the test as U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shannahan was quoted as saying: “We all live in space, let’s not make it a mess. Space should be a place where we can conduct business. Space is a place where people should have the freedom to operate.”

There are currently six astronauts living aboard the International Space Station from the U.S., Canada and Russia.


© 2019, Walker, Mich.

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