The crew aboard the International Space Station overcame a scare yesterday when pieces of space debris passed by too close for comfort prompting the six-member crew to take cover inside Russian rescue craft, space agency officials said.
According to NASA, the high-speed object hurtled toward the orbiting lab and likely missed it by just 1,100 feet (335 meters). The crew moved to shelter inside two Soyuz spacecraft 18 minutes before the debris was expected to pass, NASA said.
Normally, the ISS can evade collision with debris by firing its thrusters, but in this case NASA did not have enough time to plan a "debris avoidance manoeuver."
"It was probably the closest object that has actually come by the space station," said the US space agency's associate administrator for space operations, Bill Gerstenmaier. "We didn't have any information that it was coming until it was very, very close."
The size of the space junk remains unknown.
The crew then exited their safety capsules and returned to the ISS within a half hour.