The ISS and its crew are vulnerable to space debris collisions. Image Credit: NASA
A puncture caused by space junk has been discovered on a robotic arm outside the International Space Station.
In what has served as a chilling reminder of the threat posed by the increasingly large amount of space debris in Earth's orbit, mission managers have identified damage to the exterior of the ISS during a routine inspection.
Fortunately the hole, which was found in a robotic arm operated by the Canadian space agency (CSA), does not appear to have put any of the station's seven astronauts in danger.
It remains unclear exactly what the offending object was or when it actually struck.
"There's a lot of stuff out there traveling at over 17,500mph and obviously it can do a lot of damage," John Crassidis of the University of Buffalo told the UK's Guardian
"This one didn't do any real damage, it went through some insulation and we don't even know if it hit part of the arm. [But] it's some pretty scary stuff. The biggest thing we worry about is the astronauts, they're very exposed out there, and some day it's going to be a question of when, not if."
Satellites and spacecraft are already running a daily gauntlet of spent rocket stages, screws, bolts and other objects that currently encircle our world. As time goes on, the problem will reach the point at which it will be too risky to send anything else up into space due to the risk of a collision.
As things stand, there are estimated to be more than 3,500 defunct satellites and 900,000 smaller fragments up to 10cm in size circling far above our heads with more being added all the time.
Source: The Guardian | Comments (4)
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