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Space Science

ISS Fender Bender 248

Posted by michael
from the any-landing-you-can-walk-away-from dept.
wjsteele writes "Seems that the Space Station has had a minor fender bender. Sounds kind of scary... being in a space craft and hearing metal crunching (like an aluminum can.) Apparently some 'Minor' space debris struck the station around 2:30am this morning, while the astronauts were eating their wheaties." Update: 11/27 16:31 GMT by M : Looks like an experiment may be to blame.
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ISS Fender Bender

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  • by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Thursday November 27, 2003 @09:45AM (#7576752) Homepage Journal
    Glad you included that, because times of day -- especially those lacking any sort of timezone information -- are extremely useful when referring to events that take place in space.
  • False Alarm (Score:4, Funny)

    by thelizman (304517) <hammerattack@ y a h o o.com> on Thursday November 27, 2003 @09:45AM (#7576753) Homepage
    It was just the aluminum foil on the stations main antenna.
  • Oh boy (Score:5, Funny)

    by EulerX07 (314098) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @09:47AM (#7576759)
    Their insurance are gonna go up now, I hope they had comprehensive...
  • Space Junk (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chatmag (646500) <editor@chatmag.com> on Thursday November 27, 2003 @09:47AM (#7576760) Homepage Journal
    A 1999 study estimated there are some 4 million pounds of space junk in low-Earth orbit, just one part of a celestial sea of roughly 110,000 objects larger than 1 centimeter -- each big enough to damage a satellite or space-based telescope.

    It's no wonder the ISS was hit. All they need is the space equivalent of the "adopt a highway" program, and a lot of plastic bags.
    • Re:Space Junk (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Henry V .009 (518000)
      Even on the Earth's surface, those objects would be pretty spread out. The surface area of a sphere varies by r^2 and stable orbits starts quite a distance away from the Earth. So I would be interested in hearing the exact probability of getting hit by something; I don't imagine it's all that big.
    • The space station has a farther orbit then almost all of the lower orbit space junk like sattelites.

      The real threat is the low orbit junk striking a sattelite or a space shuttle which typically fly at much lower elevations.

  • Minor? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KingDaveRa (620784) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @09:47AM (#7576761) Homepage
    Minor? If I was floating about in space in something with walls as thick as a tin can, I would be rather worried by now.

    According to This article on BBC News [bbc.co.uk] Michael Foale is no stranger to this: "He was onboard the Mir space station in 1987 when a Progress supply tanker crashed into it - one of the most dangerous incidents to have ever taken place in space."

    I'd still be crapping my pants though. There's no jumping off this one.
    • According to This article on BBC News [bbc.co.uk] Michael Foale is no stranger to this: "He was onboard the Mir space station in 1987 when a Progress supply tanker crashed into it - one of the most dangerous incidents to have ever taken place in space."

      BBC must be wrong. There were certainly no western astronauts onboard the Mir in 1987. I guess they probably mean 1997.

    • Re:Minor? (Score:3, Funny)

      by Psiren (6145)
      There's no jumping off this one.

      Sure there is. It's just a long way down... ;)
    • Re:Minor? (Score:5, Informative)

      by MouseR (3264) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @10:16AM (#7576880) Homepage
      There's no jumping off this one.

      Actually, yes there is.

      The ISS has a permanently docked Soyuz capsule for evacuation purposes.

      Some details, here [google.com], also indicate that the incident you mention actually took place in 1997.

      NASA also have info on the escape capsule [harcourtschool.com].
      • Well, actually the Soyuz can't be *permanently* docked, or it wouldn't be very useful as an evacuation vehicle. How about 'long term'?

        But there is another consideration. The Soyuz has a shelf-life, and they periodically have to change the thing out, anyway. Every so often a Soyuz mission will come up, and take the rescue capsule down, leaving their original transport as the new rescue capsule.
    • Perhaps this is actually phase two of this programme [fortunecity.co.uk]. Original story was from The Onion, but couldn't find it on their site.
    • by jafac (1449)
      It's not "floating about".

      It's jetting along at 18,000 miles per hour.

      UnderwearSoiled=true
    • Re:Minor? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kris_J (10111) *

      According to This article on BBC News Michael Foale is no stranger to this: "He was onboard the Mir space station in 1987 when a Progress supply tanker crashed into it - one of the most dangerous incidents to have ever taken place in space."

      I've just finished reading Dragonfly, a book all about the incident you mention. Summarising: A manual docking system wasn't nearly up to the task of docking a Progress, and because of frequent system failures, the Russians bring them in fast and break hard. They'd

      • http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0887 307833/qid=1069975712/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/103-553874 1-1385411?v=glance&s=books -- I can't imagine that /. won't put at least one space in there.
  • A "brush"? (Score:2, Interesting)

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't things as small as paing flecks cause serious damage at the kind of speeds space junk goes at?

    I realise the junk might share the same orbit as the space station and have the same relative velocity blah blah, but consider just how slow it'd have to be moving not to rupture the hull.
    • That was on re-entry. But not to worry, space agencies know about space junk and plan on it not rupturing their hull
    • Re:A "brush"? (Score:4, Informative)

      by s20451 (410424) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @10:44AM (#7576993) Journal
      but don't things as small as paing flecks cause serious damage at the kind of speeds space junk goes at?

      I assume you mean "paint flecks", and the answer is that they may cause minor damage. The space shuttle Challenger took a paint fleck hit [raytheon.com] on one of its windows, which left a crater about a quarter inch in diameter. Apparently such minor pitting on the thermal tiles is considered routine in the shuttle program.

      Even at orbital speeds, paint flecks don't have enough momentum to worry about. The big worry is the ball-bearing-sized debris, which is essentially impossible to detect, and which could deliver the impact energy of a hand grenade explosion.
      • Re:A "brush"? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mr2cents (323101)
        However, the station is also moving at high speeds around the earth. If it moves in the same direction as the debris, they can move side by side without harm (or at least you don't get collisions in the km/s range).
    • Define serious damage... Here is an article describing the effects of space debris on the Hubble space telescope [space.com]. It seems only an antenna was really damaged.

      A google search for hull repair kits gave me nothing useful, does anyone else know if such a thing has been developed for the ISS?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 27, 2003 @09:49AM (#7576771)
    Micheal Foale's got one of those sound effect key fobs.

    Instead of the usual Grenade Launcher, Bazooka, Machine Gun noises, the new space version comes with 'crunching metal tin', 'airlock hiss' and 'oops, we lost a solar panel' noises...

    Nice one Michael!
  • by asciimonster (305672) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @09:51AM (#7576782) Journal
    I recall an insident with a space shuttle a few years ago. A flick of paint hit a window and left a fist-sized star in that window. That's the danger of space 30,000 km/s isn't a big deal in space, but having a collision at that speed is quite an impact.

    So anyone who still think the movie Armageddon is based on scientific facts. (Remember the body being flung againt the windscreen and it didn't even have a scratch?) Think again...
    • Here are some links that might be interesting in this respect:

      High Speed Collisions [biblehelp.org]
      Debris and Furture Space Activities [ucsc.edu]

    • Except that the body in Armageddon didnt move with 30000 km/h compared to the shuttle, as it had fallen out of a spaceship with the same speed and direction of the first craft
    • Anything hitting the space station at that speed (1/10 the speed of light) would cause enormous damage. Did you mean 30 000km/h?

      • The earths radius is about 6,360 km. The ISS altitude varies, but is around 340-380 km mean most of the time. This gives an orbital distance of ca. 42,500 km (I know, orbits aren't circles, but I'm not being precise).

        If the ISS were traveling 30,000 km/s it would circle the earth in 1.5 seconds.

        So yes: he is way off.
    • that you could see. with detail, the body coming pretty much meant that the relative speed differential wasn't 30,000km/s. Or even 30,000km/h. Or even 300km/h. Ever seen a car drive towards you at 300km/h? Even without flalling arms, even with sharp, slick edges, its more blurry than that body was.

      Just because something is in space doesn't mean that its relative speed to you is instantly 1/10 the speed of light - you realize that you're just one zero away, right? Additionally, just because you're in s
  • Least it wasn't a micro meteroite which would of just punctured the ISS and caused massive decompression. Of course floating around where the only way down is 100 mile fall isn't an overally comforting idea

    Rus
  • by hookedup (630460) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @09:52AM (#7576787)

    The spokesman, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said by telephone that the space forces had detected an object along the station's orbit. They determined that the object was very small and would pose no danger to the craft.

    Shouldnt they at the very least notify the crew to inform them of the junk nearby? And possibly practice a drill for this sort of thing.

    Seems to me they lucked out this time, if that had been a bigger piece of junk which would cause major damage, and had ground control had seen it and not said anything, we would have plenty of different headlines this morning.
  • Fender Bender ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mbone (558574) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @09:53AM (#7576792)
    This is one of the weirdest things I have heard of -
    - Both astronauts heard it
    - By this point they should be pretty familar with the noises the station makes - for example, the thermal expansion / contraction as you go through the terminator.
    - It did not sound like an explosion (typical velocities of space debris impacts is 5 kilometers per second or so - and meteorites impact at even higher velocities), so it probably wasn't a piece of random junk.
    - They got out the mobile camera and couldn't see anything damaged.

    So what was it ? Let's hope it wasn't some valve or other part failing, but I suspect we will hear more of this.
  • "In case a piece of debris is big enough to threaten damage, the spacecraft are directed to a safer orbit."

    Am I the only worried by this in that if there is a bit of junk they have to move. Surely if we keep polluting space then there eventually won't be another orbit.

    If there was a bit of junk on the freeway it would be picked up and moved and in space we just avoid it

    Rus
    • If there was a bit of junk on the freeway it would be picked up and moved and in space we just avoid it.

      Well, yeah. There's a slight cost differential between dispatching a Highways Department crew and sending up something able to find and catch a paint chip or something moving at orbital velocity.

      Surely if we keep polluting space then there eventually won't be another orbit.

      If the problem gets bad enough, surely The Powers That Be will devise some sort of autonomous craft able to detect debris down t
      • If the problem gets bad enough, surely The Powers That Be will devise some sort of autonomous craft able to detect debris down to the smallest paint chip, give chase, and collect it.

        why not just put something up there to absorb a bunch of junk and deorbit?

  • by doktorstop (725614) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @09:58AM (#7576810) Homepage Journal
    The Russian Space Agency has just issued a simplier explanation. They've been trying to figure out what happened and came out with a different idea. No debris have hit the station. The sound was internal, coming from something that jammed a fan in the internal air ventilation system. This also has been confirmed by specialists from RosAviaKosmos (the company that built IIS =) Sorry, folks, the Mars attack theory will have to wait till next time =)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Just a face spider crawling through those pipes. Nothing to worry about folks.

      At least until astronauts return to Earth...

      *creepy music*
  • by localroger (258128) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @10:10AM (#7576856) Homepage
    Space junk does not "float," it zips along at seven miles per second. Any piece of space junk big enough to see would have completely destroyed at least one module of the ISS. Even if the space junk was in "almost" the same orbit as ISS (say, detached from the ISS itself previously) it would be going fast enough to do a hell of a lot of damage.

    I don't have any idea what could have caused this, but it wasn't something randomly floating around that just bumped the station. What disturbs me more than the accident itself is that professionals who should know better are floating this idea that it might be like a shopping cart hitting your car. It makes no sense at all.

    • But you have to think relative. Relative to the speed of the space station, a piece of space junk "almost" in the same orbit as ISS is going "almost" the same speed as the ISS (unless one is being propelled by something). That's why it can just rub against the station without actually causing any damage.
      • There are two extreme cases, and a lot of intermediates.

        The orbital radius determines the tangential velocity of an orbiting object, but it doesn't determine its direction. You have to take the angle between the two velocity vectors into account in calculating the relative velocity.

        In this case, assume r is the same. If both velocities have the same direction, then relative velocity is zero. If they're on the opposite direction, then the relative velocity is twice the original. For any other cases you'll
  • by Txiasaeia (581598) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @10:11AM (#7576861)
    Did anybody else read the title and think "Bite my shiny metal space station ass?"
  • by heironymouscoward (683461) <heironymouscoward.yahoo@com> on Thursday November 27, 2003 @10:14AM (#7576873) Journal
    The scene... a silently rusting space station, somewhere in near Earth orbit.

    "Honey,..."

    "Yeah?"

    "... I think I crashed the space station"

    "WHAT?!!"

    "Look, it wasn't my fault. Some space junk came out without stopping and I ran right into it!"

    "Honey, baby, how often have I told you, DON'T DRIVE MY SPACE STATION. Sorry, I got a little emotional there."

    "We're insured, aren't we?"

    "Not over international territory. Right now we're about over Afghanistan. No coverage."

    "I'm so sorry, I'll make it right..."

    "OK, suit up, we're going out"

    "No, I meant I'll bake some cookies"

    "OK, get me a beer while you're at it."

  • by Timesprout (579035) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @10:17AM (#7576884)
    Not to refer to my secret orbiting battle station from which I intend to launch my bid for world domination as 'debris'
  • by suds (6610) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @10:29AM (#7576925) Homepage
    Space junk, half the size of the little finger nail has hit the International Space Station (of size approximately 20 VW beetles) today morning at 2.30am precisely. The junk was moving at a 1000 times the speed of a jumbo jet, and if hit head on could create a crater 0.0034 times the size of Philadelphia.
  • by riggwelter (84180) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @10:36AM (#7576945) Homepage Journal
    ...raise shields?!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...they discover that a six pack of beer has been stowed away in the bathroom. And one can is missing...
  • by Saint Aardvark (159009) * on Thursday November 27, 2003 @10:50AM (#7577020) Homepage Journal
    INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION -- Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg was arrested today over 700 miles above the Earth's surface when he was found filming scenes for a sequel to his controversial film, Crash, a movie about sexual attraction to car crashes.

    Cronenberg, who had not obtained permission to film from the American or Russian space agencies, was found outside the International Space Station by astronauts after they were awoken by what sounded like "a car being crashed". Upon investigation, the astronauts found Cronenberg discussing the result of a take with actor Elias Koteas and giving direction for the next.

    "I can't believe he did this," said cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri from the space station. "This is not a movie studio."

    The arrest comes only six months after Cronenberg announced that he was entering the X-Prize Contest, which promises an award of $10,000,000 US to the first privately-owned reusable spacecraft. Outside of a few die-hard fans of the director's work, no one had taken Cronenberg's entrace seriously.

    "This really fucks things up for me," said John Carmack, the odds-on favourite in the contest. "If he posts bail and gets back up in space, then he wins the prize. I never knew he was this far ahead."

    Cronenberg is being held in a washroom on the International Space Station pending a routine Soyuz supply flight. Sources at NASA say that it's possible he could be formally booked and bail set within as little as six days, giving him plenty of time to fulfill the X-Prize conditions.

    Open-source programmer Richard Stallman could not be reached for comment, but sources close to the computing guru said he had been collaborating with Cronenberg for some time. "He was one of the paramedics in the first Crash," said a friend. "I think Cronenberg's making him a meteorite or something in this one."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 27, 2003 @11:14AM (#7577118)
    BBC News [bbc.co.uk] now says that it wasn't hit [bbc.co.uk] by an external object and that the noice came from an internal instrument.
  • by Channard (693317) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @11:16AM (#7577126) Journal
    '... a vaguely humanoid yet strangely reflective skinned figure placing a satellite dish and assorted space station parts into his torso before flying away in a strange shaped craft. Sound cleanup of the noise has revealed the mysterious but still slightly distorted message '.ou ca... bit... my shiny... etal... ass' Could this be the first evidence of an alien intelligence in the universe.?'
  • by geoswan (316494) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @11:22AM (#7577153) Journal
    The article talks about the different attitudes towards safety the two space agencies have...

    The Russians consider themselves less rigid and more inventive than the Americans, who tend to follow every letter in the technical manuals, said Sergei Gorbunov, a spokesman for the Russian Space Agency.

    Isn't this what caused the Chernobyl meltdown? IIRC, the technical staff were being inventive and improvising around some safety tests.

    • The Russians consider themselves less rigid and more inventive than the Americans, who tend to follow every letter in the technical manuals, said Sergei Gorbunov, a spokesman for the Russian Space Agency.

      Actually, that was a quote from another space.com article. Here is the link [space.com].

  • I hope they did not spill any Tang [kraft.com].
  • by smart.id (264791) <jbd.jd87@com> on Thursday November 27, 2003 @11:37AM (#7577200) Homepage
    This brings me to wonder... what time system and time zone (if any) do the astronauts use?
  • Nothing actually hit the space station, and everything is fine. See here [washingtontimes.com], here [gateway2russia.com], here [dfw.com], or just skip them all and see Google [google.com].
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I didn't know space stations have fenders. That is about as dumb as putting wings on a space ship. Wait... Nevermind.
  • by MadAnthony02 (626886) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @01:07PM (#7577616) Homepage

    I thought it said IIS fender bender. I was trying to figure out why the space station was running IIS, and figured this was another microsoft-bashing article.

  • by xihr (556141) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @03:23PM (#7578221) Homepage
    All they heard on the ISS was a noise. Checks for external damage haven't found anything yet. Surely you hear hear the occasional weird noise in your apartment/house; that doesn't mean it was hit by a meteor, does it?
  • Acoustic location (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ipsender (727730) on Thursday November 27, 2003 @05:31PM (#7578719)
    Surely the astonishing finding is that there would appear to be no on-board vibration (sound) sensor array networked to a computer which could accurately determine the source and probable nature of the disturbance. Or does that feature come with v2.0?

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