Look out! says NASA. Three crew members evacuated the International Space Station earlier today. What could have caused such action? Garbage. A 13-centimeter-wide piece of space junk was projected to come within 4.5 kilometers of the space station. Not willing to take any risks, NASA told the crew to jump ship.
The crew members: Mike Fincke, Yury Lonchakov and Sandra Magnus took shelter in the Soyuz, a Russian spaceship docked with the space station. In the event of a collision, the Soyuz could bring the crew back home, safe and sound. Normally the station will simply maneuver around such debris, but today there was not enough time, prompting NASA to order the evacuation. The debris, part of an old satellite motor, was not related to February's satellite crash.
Only six minutes after the crew left the station, NASA gave the all clear signal and ordered the crew to get back to work. All's well that ends well.
Ok, I understand that a small little meteorite the size of a quarter could probably tear right through the station, cause major damage and nobody would see it coming. However, doesn't it seem like overkill to order an evacuation because and orbiting piece of space junk roughly the size of a softball might come within 3 MILES of the thing? A collision of that sort seems about as likely as me getting struck by lightning.
Such a collision is unlikely, but not impossible. Space is big and gets much bigger the farther you are from earth (just look at the exponential increase of the surface area of a sphere as you increase the sphere's radius incrimentently).
Also, we often don't know where all that junk is to the inch. It is far away and moving (usually pretty fast).
Most of all, however, this served as a valuable exercise in emergency practice. If an object does come into a collision course, it is good to know the timeframe as well as practice abort ship procedures.
I agree with both of you. It shows that NASA and friends are prepared if the ISS were to be jeopardized in any way or form, but it was probably overkill to evacuate when radar said the thing was about 3 miles away.
I wonder if it would be practical to place a large shield in orbit in front of the space station to deflect whatever might come their way??