NASA postponed a spacewalk because of dangerous space trash that could puncture an astronaut’s suit or harm the International Space Station.
It’s the first time a spacewalk has been postponed due to the potential of space debris accidents.
Outside the space station, two U.S. astronauts were scheduled to replace a broken antenna. However, Mission Control received word late Monday night Nov. 29, that a piece of orbital debris was on its way. The spacewalk was postponed until Thursday because there was insufficient time to assess the risks.
Space debris (also known as space junk, space pollution, space waste, space trash, or space garbage) is defunct artificial objects in space—principally in Earth orbit—which no longer serve a proper function.
Derelict spacecraft—nonfunctional spacecraft and abandoned launch vehicle stages—mission-related debris, including fragmentation debris from the breakup of limp rocket bodies and spacecraft, which is particularly abundant in Earth’s orbit.
Other types of space debris include bits from disintegration, erosion, and collisions, or even paint flecks, solidified liquids blasted from spacecraft, and unburned particles from solid rocket motors, in addition to derelict artificial objects left in orbit.
Since Russia destroyed a satellite in a missile test two weeks ago, space trash has become a significant threat to the space station and its seven-person crew.
It was unclear whether the object of concern was part of the Russian satellite wreckage at the time. NASA officials claimed during a news conference on Monday that the missile launch on Nov. 15 resulted in at least 1,700 satellite pieces large enough to monitor and thousands more too small to be seen from the ground but large enough to breach a spacewalker’s suit, reported AP News.
Because of the Russian-created debris, NASA authorities claimed astronauts Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron had a 7 percent higher chance of a spacewalk puncture. However, they claimed that, based on previous experience, it was still within permissible boundaries.