Labels NASA's chief Indian anti-satellite missile test a "terrible, terrible thing"



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ISS space junk

NASA

NASA chief Jim Bridenstine called a recent test of antisatellite missiles from India, which destroyed a low-orbiting satellite and dropped 400 fragments into space, a "terrible and terrible thing."

"This kind of activity is not compatible with the future of manned space flights," Bridenstine said at a meeting of NASA officials held live at City Hall. "It's unacceptable and NASA needs to be very clear about the impact it has on us."

India has announced that it has successfully completed "Mission Shakti", an anti-satellite missile test on March 27, destroying one of the country's satellites. The success of the mission made India only the fourth nation to complete such a test, after previous tests conducted by the US, Russia and China.

In the official press release, the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the test was conducted in the "lower atmosphere" to ensure that there were no debris in space and even if there were debris generated, it would return to Earth in a few weeks – but the debris field can still be dangerous.

"Claims that destructive events like this are good because the fragments will soon be incinerated are deliberately misleading, in my opinion," says Alice Gorman, an Australian archaeologist and debris specialist. "Any event of intentional or accidental fragmentation increases the risk of collision with satellites operating."

During NASA's City Hall, Bridenstine noted that the destruction of satellites in India has created more than 400 fragments and NASA is monitoring 60 of them. A subset of those that actually move into an orbit above the ISS, potentially endangering the station and the astronauts if it collided with the station.

"The risk to the International Space Station was increased by 44%," said Bridenstine.

Notably, the station has emergency procedures in place if NASA's local trash goes straight to the space base. Generally, crew members jump into the "lifeboats" at the station: the capsules that provide them with passage to and from the Earth. If the station were hit, they could be discarded. Fortunately, while the astronauts aboard took refuge in the capsule before, they never had to be evacuated.

As for the recent destruction of the satellite, such a scenario is unlikely to occur.

"The good news is that it is low enough that in the Earth's orbit, over time, everything will dissipate," said Bridenstine, contrasting this incident with a 2007 Chinese anti-satellite test that created a still-circulating debris field. Earth.

Several companies have worked on ways to reduce the potentially dangerous space debris field that is piling up around the Earth, including the use of a harpoon to stab the space junk or a network to nest it as a Spider-Man space. The concern is that as the earth's low orbit fills with garbage, a cascade of uncontrollable destruction can occur if the debris hits the wrong satellite. The so-called "Kessler Syndrome" would see satellites and space infrastructure constantly divided by a wave of debris.

While nations are free to destroy their own assets in space, the deliberate creation of a debris field is a simple demonstration of power, designed to show other nations their satellite destruction capabilities. Gorman says there is "no good scientific reason for such tests" to happen.

"They are simply a visible demonstration of power," she says.

The good news is that for now, Bridenstine says there is little danger to the station and the astronauts.

"While the risk rose 44%, our astronauts are still safe, the International Space Station is still safe," Bridenstine explained. If the ISS faced any problem, it could be maneuvered to avoid possible collisions.

"At the end of the day, we must also be clear that these activities are not sustainable or compatible with manned spaceflight."

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