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ISS Window Cracks After Being Hit by Tiny Debris

May 19, 2016 05:35 AM EDT
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No matter how advanced man's technology seems to appear, when launched into the vastness of space our technology, becomes vulnerable.

British astronaut Tim Peake posted a photo of a cracked glass window of the International Space Station (ISS). He said it is from one of the modules of the ISS which was hit by flying tiny debris a few weeks ago.

  

The European Space Agency (ESA) had already expressed their concerns with regard to space debris. According to their study, there are 700,000 catalogued space debris in Earth's orbit which are smaller than 1cm.  According to ESA, debris tend to be a serious threat to satellites and astronauts when traveling at a very high speed in space.

In Peake's tweet, a photo of a 7 mm-diameter crack was shown. The damaged window was from ISS' Cupola attachment. The Cupola docked into the ISS in 2010 according to a report by the Daily Mail. The large glass window of the Cupola enables astronauts to peak into space and take stunning images of the Earth.

The same report said that the damaged glass is made of fused-silica and borosilicate-glass and apparently, it can suffer from impact of space debris no matter how small or tiny it is. According to ESA, a small speck of metal debris a few thousandth of a millimeter might have caused the crack.

This scenario might be familiar because a rouge debris caused a lot of trouble in the movie Gravity starring Sandra Bullock. But the plot doesn't just happen in the movies; it can happen in real life as well.

It is alarming to see proof that a small metal waste floating in the air can compromise the safety of the ISS. The pressurized capsule enables oxygen confinement for the crew to thrive.

But experts say that although there's physical damage to the glass, there's nothing to worry about.

'I am often asked if the International Space Station is hit by space debris. Yes - this is the chip in one of our Cupola windows, glad it is quadruple glazed,' said Peake on Twitter.

  

But space debris shouldn't be taken lightly.

"An object up to 1 cm in size could disable an instrument or a critical flight system on a satellite. Anything above 1 cm could penetrate the shields of the Station's crew modules, and anything larger than 10 cm could shatter a satellite or spacecraft into pieces" ESA said in a statement quoted by Popular Science.

This is why ESA launched the Clean Space Program to help catalogue and collect space debris. This will make space safer for astronauts and future space missions.

"ESA is at the forefront of developing and implementing debris-mitigation guidelines, because the best way to avoid problems from orbital debris is not to cause them in the first place," said Holger Krag, Head of Esa's Space Debris Office.

 

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