Space Shuttle Discovery Pushes Space Station Out Of Path Of Space Debris

Richard Arnold participates in the mission’s first scheduled spacewalk.

Astronauts on board of the International Space Station have been called into action to dodge yet another piece of space junk.

The Shuttle Discovery’s crew were ordered to fire the ship’s thrusters  to reorient it so it was in front of the orbiter for three hours.

This resulted in a natural drag of about a foot per second, moving the Station out of the path of a chunk of Chinese rocket about 4 inches in diameter.

Though small, such debris could kill a space-walking astronaut instantly.

Even tiny flecks of paint are travelling fast enough – tens of thousands of miles an hour – to dent the Station’s surface or even crack a window.

Debris is a growing problem for the station. Earlier this month, the three station crew had to race into their emergency getaway capsule because another piece of space junk came uncomfortably close.

And just before Discovery’s arrival last week, Nasa considered moving the station again before judging that debris from an old Soviet satellite would not threaten the craft.
‘Space debris is becoming an ever-increasing challenge,’ flight director Kwatsi Alibaruho said.

‘It’s a big deal. It’s very tiring. Sometimes it’s exhausting.’

The latest episode occurred as Nasa scrambled to put together a spacewalking repair plan for a jammed equipment platform at the space station.

Astronauts will complete the third and final spacewalk today. They plan to return to an equipment storage shelf that jammed and could not be deployed on Saturday after the spacewalkers accidentally inserted a pin upside down.

Monday’s spacewalkers – former schoolteachers Joseph Acaba and Richard Arnold II – will use all their strength this time to get the shelf properly deployed. They will have pry bars and hammers, just in case. If nothing works, the jammed platform will simply be tied down with sturdier tethers.

The storage platform – located on the long space station framework that holds all the solar wings – is meant to secure big spare parts that don’t fit inside the space station but will be needed once Nasa’s shuttles stop flying.

Despite the recent incidents, Discovery’s astronauts said they don’t worry about space junk when they’re outside.

‘We have enough other risks and worries to take on as we go outside,’ said Steven Swanson, who took part in the first two spacewalks.

Nasa has delayed tests of the International Space Station’s urine recycler on Sunday after problems developed with centrifuge-like device

The urine processor is a critical part of the space station’s new water-recycling system, which NASA would like to get working before the population at the orbiting outpost doubles to six at the end of May.

Space Shuttle Discovery Pushes Space Station Out Of Path Of Space Debris

Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata, begins a workout on the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) on the ISS

Via Daily Mail