The space shuttle Discovery just can't catch a break. Astronauts aboard the orbiting craft, which is scheduled to land back on Earth later today, fired the engines around noon EDT today to dodge a piece of space junk creeping into its orbit, marking the third piece of orbiting detritus to enter the shuttle's neighborhood during this mission.
Mission Control could not identify the debris or gauge its size, but it was flying in essentially the same orbit as the shuttle and was expected to enter the shuttle's safety perimeter around 1 p.m. NASA protocol requires the shuttle to maintain a buffer extending out 25 miles on all sides and 2 miles above and below the shuttle which no other object is supposed to enter, least of all "mystery orbital debris," as Mission Control termed it.
The offending object is thought to have come free from either the shuttle or the International Space Station while the two were linked during Satuday's space walk. It joins two other potential threats that have dogged the current mission; a chunk of Chinese satellite was expected to buzz the ISS twice on Wednesday, though it never came very close, and a large piece of a 3-year-old European rocket went screaming past just 1.3 miles ahead of the linked shuttle-station last week, though Mission Control determined that it posed no threat.
Collisions, or near collisions, with space debris are an increasingly common threat for both manned and unmanned missions as more countries, and now private ventures, are launching spacecraft and satellites than ever before. In March, the space station crew temporarily evacuated into their Soyuz escape pod as debris passed perilously close to the ISS, though the debris missed and they did not have to jettison. Today's detour won't delay Discovery from making its landing on schedule, but thunderstorms around the Kennedy Space Center in Florida might, keeping the shuttle in orbit an extra day. A backup stretch of runway in California could be activated if the weather doesn't subside.
Discovery was docked with the ISS on a routine cargo run delivering supplies, scientific equipment and at least one treadmill named for TV personality Stephen Colbert. The mission also swapped in one of its crew for a stint on the space station and is bringing another crewmember home. Also returning with the shuttle: a 12-inch plastic figurine of Disney's Toy Story character Buzz Lightyear, who is returning home to a hero's welcome after orbiting on the ISS since last year, marking a fourth piece of space junk Discovery's crew will have to deal with before returning home.
This will always be an issue for generations to come, like the environmental issues. Face it humanity as a whole chooses the cheapest and easiest method. Being burning coal or "taking out the trash" in space it will be done the easy way until those bueracrats in government get a knock on the door from an apocalypse (although many of them consider the end of space mission not to be an apocalypse, I certainly do.
If you can hear space junk "screaming by" your spaceship, it is not in space.
"Screaming by" was a figurative statement. Due to the fact that orbiting debris moves along incredibly fast means that when it does come in close proximity to the shuttle it is in fact "screaming by".
Just because an object is in space doesn't mean it can't be screaming, you just won't be able to hear it.
oh COME ON were arguing about trivial things...
everyone can realize it was said figuratively to give the text more flare
MOVE ON everybody
So what are they planning to do about it? Most of the space junk orbiting earth is exactly that: Junk from countries all over the world. I say a good idea would be to organize an international orbital cleanup. Get pilots from CSA, NASA, ESA, etc and organize a cleanup. This would allow easier, less coordinated missions. It's a mess up there, just as bad as our highways.
Or they could implant a Automatic Avoidance System to automatically move the space shuttle around the space junk before its to late.
there will be more and more and more space junk until we learn to clean up our own messes or just not dump stuff in the first place, i know some of it cannot be avoided..like flakes of paint coming off etc. but losing tools in space or not making sure you clean up any pieces of satellites that break off is just lazy, and until we own up to it..they will not try and fix it