NASA Had To Postpone A Spacewalk Due To Concerns About Space Debris

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NASA postponed a spacewalk scheduled for November 30th due to a “debris notification” for the International Space Station.

NASA reported in a tweet early Tuesday morning that it received a debris notification for the International Space Station on Monday night and that the spacewalk would be postponed due to the lack of opportunity to fully assess the risk it potentially represents to the astronauts.

On the International Space Station, the spacewalk was intended to replace a faulty antenna system. NASA was attempting to replace a damaged S-band radio communications antenna assembly outside the space station with a new spare that was more than 20 years old. Two astronauts, Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Brown were set to launch the mission at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time. However, around five hours before the astronauts were supposed to depart the station, NASA announced on Twitter that the spacewalk would not take place.

“NASA received a debris notification for the space station,” read the tweet. “Due to the lack of opportunity to properly assess the risk it could pose to the astronauts, teams have decided to delay the Nov. 30 spacewalk until more information is available.”

This comes two weeks after Russia conducted an anti-satellite missile test without any notification, resulting in a debris field in low-Earth orbit, leading crew members to seek shelter in their docked spaceships.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson wrote in a statement that he was “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,” Nelson added.

According to Dana Weigel, NASA’s deputy manager of the International Space Station programme, the debris has since cleared. Still, the agency has determined that pieces remaining in the atmosphere pose a “slightly elevated” background risk for the space station as a whole, as well as a 7% increased risk of astronauts conducting the walk being punctured.

As a result of space war tactics, the hazards astronauts face during science missions are beginning to escalate. However, NASA didn’t blame the delay on Russia’s anti-satellite missile test. 

The mission would be placed on hold “until further information is available,” according to NASA. A new date has yet to be determined.

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