NASA boss slams Russia for ‘reckless’ weapons test that forced astronauts to shelter

Destruction of Soviet-era satellite created 1,500 bits of debris that could stay in space for decade

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Tuesday 16 November 2021 00:46
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The boss of US space agency NASA has slammed Russia for the “reckless and dangerous” anti-missile test that forced astronauts onboard the international Space Station to seek shelter.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson condemned the surprise weapons test that left a dangerous cloud of space debris in its wake.

“Earlier today, due to the debris generated by the destructive Russian Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test, ISS astronauts and cosmonauts undertook emergency procedures for safety,” said Mr Nelson, a former senator from Florida.

“Like Secretary Blinken, I’m outraged by this irresponsible and destabilizing action. With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS, but also their own cosmonauts.

“Their actions are reckless and dangerous, threatening as well the Chinese space station and the taikonauts on board.”

The State Department confirmed that the Russian weapons test had intentionally destroyed a Soviet-era satellite.

Mr Nelson added: “All nations have a responsibility to prevent the purposeful creation of space debris from ASATs and to foster a safe, sustainable space environment.

“NASA will continue monitoring the debris in the coming days and beyond to ensure the safety of our crew in orbit.”

US space experts say that most of the debris would be gone within five years but some bits could stay in orbit for a decade.

During Monday’s emergency maneuver, NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron, along with Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency, sheltered in their Crew Dragon spacecraft, while Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov, Pyotr Dubrov, and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei sheltered in their Soyuz capsule.

The astronauts took to the spacecraft in case they needed to undock and head back to Earth if any major damage was donate the ISS.

The space station is passing through the debris field every 90 minutes and sheltered in the capsules for the second and third passes through it based on risk assessment made by NASA’s debris office and ballistics experts.

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