Washington: The US space agency is
tracking a piece of space junk that could be on a path toward
the International Space Station, where the shuttle Atlantis
has just docked on its final mission, NASA has said.
However, NASA is not ready to say for sure whether the
object is projected to collide with the shuttle and station,
though the paths were likely to cross on Tuesday, said deputy
manager of the space shuttle program LeRoy Cain.
"What we were told today is very preliminary," Cain said
yesterday. "It is a potential right now,"
Cain said he was unaware what size the object may be, but
expected more information later Sunday or Monday.
Tuesday is the scheduled day for a spacewalk by two US
astronauts aboard the ISS as part of Expedition 28.
On June 28, a piece of space debris narrowly missed the
ISS in a rare incident that forced the six-member crew to
scramble to their rescue craft, space agency officials said.
The high-speed object hurtled toward the orbiting lab and
likely missed it by just 1,100 feet (335 meters). The crew
moved to shelter inside two Soyuz spacecraft 18 minutes before
the debris was expected to pass, NASA said.
"It was probably the closest object that has actually
come by the space station," NASA's associate administrator for
space operations, Bill Gerstenmaier, said afterward.
"We didn't have any information that it was coming until
it was very, very close."
The size of the space junk remains unknown and no harm
was done by its fly-by.
First Published: Tuesday, July 12, 2011, 00:55