Early this morning, NASA postponed a spacewalk scheduled to take place outside the International Space Station today, after being alerted to a possible security threat from some nearby space debris. It is not known where the debris came from, but the delay comes about two weeks after Russia detonated one of its own satellites in orbit, creating thousands of dangerous fragments that threatened the space station.
NASA astronauts Kayla Barron and Thomas Marshburn were all ready to don spacesuits and leave the confines of the ISS this morning around 7:10 a.m. ET, to replace an antenna outside the station. It would have been the fifth spacewalk for Marshburn and the first for Barron.
But before they could exit through the airlock, NASA mission control personnel stopped the spacewalk. “It’s just real life, this is the way things are sometimes, and I’m really glad you guys are keeping us safe,” said Mark Vande Hei, one of the astronauts on board. from the ISS, to mission control flight controllers, according to CBS News.
In a short blog post, NASA said it had not had enough time to “properly assess the risk” the debris posed to astronauts, and the agency therefore chose to postpone the outing until the end of the day. ‘space until further notice.
This is the second time in the past two weeks that space debris has disrupted the plans of the International Space Station. On November 15, astronauts aboard the ISS were woken up very early by mission controllers and ordered to take shelter in place after Russia carried out an anti-satellite, or ASAT, test. Using some sort of kinetic missile, Russia detonated one of its own satellites, creating at least 1,700 traceable pieces of debris and thousands of small pieces that cannot be tracked. As the satellite rotated relatively close to the ISS, the debris cloud periodically passed close to the ISS.
NASA did not say whether the debris that delayed the spacewalk came from the same ASAT test, and the space agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, NASA insinuated that the delay would not have a big impact on the station. “The space station’s schedule and operations can easily accommodate the delay in the spacewalk,” NASA wrote in its blog post.