Space Debris Could ‘Completely Wipe Out’ International Space Station 

This week a Russian missile test blasted a decommissioned Kosmos spy satellite into more than 1,500 pieces of space debris, alerting the seven-person crew on the International Space Station (ISS), who were woken up to an alarm for potential emergency collision with the debris. 

The astronauts aboard the ISS were told to shelter in transport capsules that initially brought them to the ISS, while the station passed by the debris several times within multiple hours. Luckily the ISS was left damage-free after the incident, however, NASA is calling out Russia after the potentially fatal event. 

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Space debris like the kind floating in the atmosphere from Russia’s recent missile test can travel at speeds of more than 17,500 miles-per-hour, and even scrap metal the size of a pea could be potentially deadly when it’s that close to the Earth. 

“It doesn’t take a very large hole to basically explode the space station. In fact, a hole measuring just 0.5 inches (1.3 centimeters) wide could cause irreparable structural damage that could completely wipe out the space station,” said John Crassidis, a SUNY Distinguished Professor at the University at Buffalo in New York who works with NASA to monitor space debris.

NASA currently is tracking more than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris that measure larger than a softball. It uses computer models to estimate the positions of millions of smaller pieces of junk that are too tiny to be seen. 

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The ISS has changed courses 25 times since 1999 specifically to avoid debris. The craft is covered in more than 100 impact shields known as Whipple Shields, to protect it from any smaller unknown pieces of clutter. 

“However, where the ISS itself is well protected from incoming projectiles, the astronauts who crew and maintain it are not — and that is where the biggest risk lies. Even an encounter with the smallest piece of orbital debris could kill an astronaut on the spot. Space suits are not protected at all,” Crassidis said.

“Imagine a marble going 17,000 miles per hour at you — it would go right through you, like a bullet.”

“Unfortunately, there are no international laws preventing nations from conducting low-orbit missile tests like the one Russia just did. It may take an astronaut getting seriously injured or even killed before the world takes the space junk problem seriously,” Crassidis added.

NASA will continue to monitor the debris cloud as closely as possible.

Astronat on Moon

Scientists Claim Mold From Chernobyl Could Help Protect Astronauts From Space Radiation

NASA has been working on a way to get back to the moon for the past few years, and now, they’re claiming to return by 2024. The goal is to potentially establish a permanent human presence on the moon by the end of the decade, however, there are a ton of logistical obstacles to work through before that idea can get anywhere close to becoming a reality. 

One of the largest issues NASA scientists have been working through is space radiation. The radiation levels in space pose a genuine threat for all astronauts. On Earth, the planet’s magnetic and atmosphere fields shield us from the deadly radiation that exists in space, however, that “safety blanket” of atmosphere disappears the further into space one goes. 

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For reference, astronauts working in the International Space Station are receiving 20 times the normal amount of radiation when compared to what we endure here on Earth. Obviously, this is a major concern, and is part of the reason scientists have been working tirelessly with an unexpected organism to help combat this radiation issue. 

Scientists have found that fungi and mold species found in Chernobyl, one of the most radioactive places on Earth, are thriving in Russia by “feeding on the extreme levels of radiation.” For those who are unaware, in 1986 the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant experienced an explosion that blew a hole through a No. 4 reactor on the plant. The level of radiation around the plant was so intense it was said that exposure would result in death within 60 seconds, so finding species of fungi and agriculture in general was astounding. 

The initial study on these fungi species were published in a scientific journal last week, and specifically examined a species known as Cladosporium sphaerospermum (CS). The writers of the study claim that this fungi can be “used as a self-healing, self-replicating shield to protect astronauts in deep space.”

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The researchers explained in the study that they placed this specific species of fungi in the International Space Station for 30 days where they monitored its level of radiation absorption. They set up a petri dish with two sides; one side contained no fungi and acted as a control for the experiment, the other side contained CS particles. The dish was placed under a radiation detector where measurements were taken every 110 seconds. 

The study revealed that the fungi was able to adapt to the gravity conditions in space and “feed” on the radiation the same way it did in Chernobyl. Initial findings showed that CS was able to even block some incoming radiation by decreasing the levels up to 2%. 

In the conclusion of these findings the scientists claim that the biggest advantage of using CS fundi specifically is that it can replicate itself on its own, meaning workers at NASA would only have to send a small amount into orbit with astronauts to make it effective. With some tweaking and a lot more experimentation, researchers believe this fungi can be used to shield bases on the Moon or even Mars. 

As of right now NASA is planning on sending the Perseverance rover to the Red Planet by the end of the month, and the current astronauts aboard the International Space Station are set on returning to Earth on August 2nd.


SpaceX Makes Historic Landing At The International Space Station

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley have successfully entered the International Space Station (ISS) after a 19 hour long journey on the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. The two men docked at the ISS around 10 a.m this past Sunday morning after initially launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday. 

The two are expected to remain docked for one to three months with a maximum time of 110 days. The Crew Dragon made initial contact with the docking port at the ISS early Sunday when the men did a “soft capture” of the capsule; which basically means initial contact. They then went on to do a “hard capture” that involved using twelve latches to create an air-locked seal between their crew cabin and the entrance to the space station itself. 

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They made their soft capture around 10 a.m on Sunday but weren’t actually able to enter the station until around 1:15 p.m. due to the lengthy “hard capturing” process. Fellow NASA astronaut Christopher Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner greeted both Behnken and Hurley when they finally entered the station, as the three of them have been docked there since April. 

“I couldn’t be happier about the performance of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. We were able to sleep for a few hours, share meals and use the on board toilet during our journey. The Dragon was a slick vehicle, and we had good airflow, so we had an excellent, excellent evening,” Hurley said in a call to mission control located in Houston, Texas. 

While on their way to the ISS, both Behnken and Hurley gave a virtual tour of the new SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft using cameras they brought with them. While the vehicle was en route, the two took viewers around the capsule where NASA later uploaded the video to their official YouTube page. In the video the two announced that they decided on their own name for the vehicle: Endeavour.

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“The astronauts picked that name for a few reasons, Hurley said on NASA and SpaceX’s webcast. On one hand, the name honors the years-long endeavor that was returning human spaceflight to the United States after the Space Shuttle retired in 2011. And it honors the longtime friendship that Hurley and Behnken have shared, and their histories with NASA: Both astronauts began their spaceflight careers with missions aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. (That vehicle’s namesake was an 18th century ship commanded by British explorer James Cook — hence the British spelling of Endeavour,” (CNN reports)

The launching and docking of Endeavour is a major milestone for the spacecraft itself. SpaceX itself has been working on this goal since it was originally founded in 2002 so when the two officially made contact with the ISS, those down at mission control obviously had to celebrate. 

When NASA originally called upon SpaceX, a private company, to design vehicles for space travel to the ISS after the Space Shuttle program was retired in 2011, they received a lot of backlash. While NASA and SpaceX have worked together multiple times in the past, SpaceX was never given the responsibility of creating original designs, developments, and testing facilities for human-related space travel vehicles, so experts were worried. 

However, after this initial success, it’s likely that NASA and SpaceX will continue working with one another well into the future. In fact, the two recently announced that they’re ambitiously hoping to put people on the moon by 2024.


Astronaut Chris Cassidy Docked At The International Space Station Following Being In Quarantine

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy was joined by two Russian cosmonauts, Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, in a recent mission that launched the three men into space on route for the International Space Station (ISS).