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Space Debris No Threat to Station Crew

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed Nov 23, 2011 9:06 am via: NASA
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Flight Director Brian Smith called off planning to shelter the Expedition 30 crew in their Soyuz spacecraft after flight controllers evaluated tracking data on the Fengyun 1C satellite debris and concluded it poses no threat to the International Space Station. Consideration was given for sheltering the crew in their Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft after initial tracking information indicated a high probability of the debris colliding with the station.

But further tracking data confirmed that the debris poses no threat to the station or the crew. Commander Dan Burbank and Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, who were informed Tuesday of the possibility they would have to shelter in their Soyuz craft, will be told when they wake up around 1 a.m. EST Wednesday that no such sheltering will be required.

Initial predictions indicated the object would have come within 2,800 feet (850 meters) of the station at 4:43 a.m. Wednesday. Had tracking continued to show the closest approach within a predetermined “pizza box” around the station, the crew would have been directed to take precautions that include closing hatches between station modules and getting into their Soyuz spacecraft.

Standard procedure for such encounters is to maneuver the space station out of the way of the predicted path of the debris if there is enough time to coordinate the move. However, preparations for yesterday’s undocking of the Soyuz spacecraft bringing Mike Fossum, Satoshi Furukawa and Sergei Volkov home slightly changed the station’s orbit, resulting in a closer approach. The object had been monitored earlier but was not then a threat.

The next International Space Station Update on NASA Television is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the three-person Expedition 30 crew enjoyed an off-duty day Tuesday following six whirlwind days of handover activities with the departing Expedition 29 crew who returned to Earth Monday.

Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum and Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa and Sergei Volkov landed their Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft on the steppe of Kazakhstan at 9:26 p.m. EST Monday (8:26 a.m. Tuesday Kazakhstan time), wrapping up a five-and-a-half-month mission of research and exploration.

After some physical exams and a welcoming ceremony, Fossum and Furukawa boarded a NASA jet bound for Houston, while Volkov returned to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.

The station is now occupied by Expedition 30 Commander Dan Burbank of NASA and Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov of Russia. Three additional Expedition 30 flight engineers — NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers — are scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Dec. 21.

Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin will kick off their first full workday Wednesday as the Expedition 30 crew following their regularly scheduled wakeup time at 1 a.m.

Commander Burbank is scheduled to talk with CBS news reporters Bill Harwood and Peter King during an in-flight interview beginning at 9:35 a.m. Wednesday. The event will appear live on NASA Television.

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