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NASA ‘extra careful’ canceling spacewalk 2 weeks after Russia destroys satellite with missile

NASA scientist Arthur Brown, right, briefs NASA Administrator Bill Nelson (right in flight jacket) on astronaut life support systems. (Lee Roop/
December 03, 2021

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said today the space agency was “being extra careful” in canceling a planned spacewalk today after notification that debris could threaten astronauts venturing outside the International Space Station.

“We don’t know the answer to the question, ‘Is that debris field what caused the cancellation of the EVA today?’” Nelson said while touring the work of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. “We know there was some debris that was a concern. We just don’t know if that is attached to the (Russian) test.”

Russia launched a missile to destroy a dead satellite two weeks ago in a test of anti-satellite warfare resulting in more than 1,500 pieces of debris three inches in diameter or larger and another 100,000 smaller pieces, Nelson said. Astronauts and cosmonauts aboard abandoned the space station then for space capsules in case they had to evacuate as the field passed.

Nelson pointed to President Biden’s “Build Back Better” reconciliation spending bill when asked about infrastructure improvements at the Marshall center in Huntsville and other NASA centers. Now in the Senate after passing the House, the bill has $750 million in infrastructure funding that could help if the bill is passed.

One of Marshall’s needs is a new administration building to replace the vacated one dating back to Wernher von Braun.

“When you all leave this building, go out there and see that administration building covered with a net,” Nelson urged reporters. “That building is condemned.”

Nelson praised the work of young Marshall scientists he met working on parts of NASA’s next generation of rockets for the Artemis missions to the moon.

The first one of those missions, an uncrewed trip around the moon, could come in February if nothing delays that schedule.

“Now we’re going back to the moon, but this time it’s not the Apollo generation, it’s the Artemis generation,” Nelson said. “You have seen a lot of that generation today in this briefing. It’s going to be extraordinary what we’re doing, and we’re just talking about a little part of NASA. We don’t have time to tell you about the planetary science and the Earth science and the aeronautical inventions that are going on.”

Nelson said he and Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy just saw “the first electric airplane’ out at Edwards Air Force Base at our Armstrong test center,” he said.


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