ISS Crew May Need to Evacuate: Possible Debris Hit

by Nancy Atkinson on March 12, 2009

Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter

Soyuz attached to the ISS. Credit: NASA

Soyuz attached to the ISS. Credit: NASA


According to NASASpaceflight.com, the three crew members on board the International Space Station are being prepared for the contingency of evacuation into the Soyuz spacecraft attached to the station following a “RED threshold late notice conjunction threat” alert. The object’s closest approach would occur at 11:39 CDT, slightly more than an hour from the time of this posting. The object, cataloged as “25090 PAM-D” is orbital debris, and was initially classed as a low threat of collision with the ISS. However, latest tracking suggests the threat is now greater. As a contingency, NASA’s Expedition 18 Commander Mike Fincke, Russian Flight Engineer Yury Lonchakov, and NASA’s Sandra Magnus may be asked to evacuate into the Russian Soyuz, which would serve as their means of departing from the Station – should it be required.
UPDATE: (10:45 am CDT) Communications with ISS crew from mission control confirms the crew will be going into the Soyuz in case of impact. There is a low probability of impact, but the object is large, and if it does hit, they are talking about only a 10 minute reserve time. Fincke will be closing out the hatches on the US segment.
2nd UPDATE (11:15 am CDT) ISS is closing hatches on all the modules in preparation for evacuation into Soyuz. Crew will stay in the Soyuz from 16:30 to 16:45 GMT, possible debris hit would be at 16:39.
Final update: Debris passed harmlessly. See post-event article.

Several memos acquired by NASASpaceflight.com relay the probability level of the impact, with the latest noting “It’s now in the red threshold and if it doesn’t improve between now and TCA (Time of Closest Approach) at 11:39am CDT today they will put the crew in the Soyuz per the rules.”

“The plan that has been coordinated with MCC-M (Moscow) is that if required the crew will enter the Soyuz and be in place by 16:35 staying there until at least 5 minutes post TCA,” added another memo.

“We will not be closing any additional hatches to enable us to immediately run the nominal depress procedures should they be needed.

“If the PC remains red the course of action will be to place the crew in the Soyuz from 5 minutes before TCA until 5 minutes after TCA. This is ~2 hours after crew post sleep activities (crew will be awake). ”

We’ll keep you posted.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Spoodle58 March 12, 2009 at 9:13 AM

Crazy, it almost sounds like an April fools joke.

Best of luck to the guys up there.

Eric Near Buffalo March 12, 2009 at 9:27 AM

Wow, I hope everything goes well up there. I would hate to hear that some large piece of debris damaged a part of the ISS with all the work, money and research put into it. Best of luck to all involved.

Engelton182 March 12, 2009 at 9:36 AM

very scary

Vegar, Norway March 12, 2009 at 9:37 AM

I hope it does not hit the space station. Like Eric said, so much work and research has been put into it, it would be a big setback if it were damaged.

Comment to the article:
16:35? What timezone?

Vegar, Norway March 12, 2009 at 9:38 AM

Oh… I really should learn to read more carefully, it says right there in the article what timezone it may be hit. I apologize.

AfM March 12, 2009 at 9:53 AM

Well, did it hit? I guess not.

Damn good thing too.

CharlesP March 12, 2009 at 9:57 AM

It did not hit. Crew is heading back in.

Max March 12, 2009 at 10:20 AM

Stupid question but; how do we evacuate a 6 man crew with a 3 man capsule?

They had been planning to push the station towards housing its full staff in the near future. Have they also been planning to dock extra soyuze modules to cover during emergencies like these?
…or does everyone gather at the hatch for a rousing game of Russian Roulette?

skweegee March 12, 2009 at 10:24 AM

Where is Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck when you need them!!

Spoodle58 March 12, 2009 at 10:42 AM

Max Says: how do we evacuate a 6 man crew with a 3 man capsule?

Not a stupid question at all Max.

I think I remember reading years ago of a second soyuz being docked after the most of the assembly work, but I don’t think I saw anything on it recently, must check out the assembly schedule on the NASA website.

Dan Tillmanns March 12, 2009 at 10:57 AM

Risk. It’s all about risk. Out in one’s yard, there is a tiny but finite risk of getting hit by a piece of rock coming in from space. Above the atmosphere, the risk is still small but larger than on the ground. And so on.

Salacious B. Crumb March 12, 2009 at 8:03 PM

The risk is not only to the astronauts or cosmonauts but for the LEO (low earth orbit) to everyone for decades if not centuries.
Just wish the space agencies would stop cutting costs and risking sacrificing LEO instead of spending far more money into properly decommissioning and disposing of spent space junk. Clearly gambling on lives is not a prudent course of action

Maybe we all should learn some simple physics…
When in Earth orbit, then mass times velocity squared will wins every time.

Carl Rollberg March 13, 2009 at 3:48 AM

I hope someday they can snare all of the debris up there. There will be more and more until we learn to police the area. I haven’t heard that phrase since my old Army days. God please keep our people up there safe as well as we gravity held Earthlings down here.

Max March 13, 2009 at 6:50 PM

Its a nearly impossible problem. The debris is most often shed from spacecraft going into orbit. Even a craft going up to “clean” will be depositing its own waste.

I don’t disbelieve they could find a solution. But its going to take allot of innovative thinking and someones gonna have to front some serious cash.

hydraulic floor jacks March 14, 2009 at 5:17 AM

I have to say, that I can not agree with you in 100%, but that’s just my opinion, which could be wrong.
p.s. You have a very good template . Where did you find it?

Allen April 1, 2009 at 11:58 PM

From where did you learn about this topic?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: