Over the weekend, Russian officials launched what NASA is calling an ASAT, or an anti-satellite test. Monday, NASA officials issued a statement harshly denouncing the move. Despite Russia shooting down one of its own satellites, the event caused a space-faring debris cloud, potentially within range of damaging the International Space Station. In fact, officials at International Space Station Flight Control ordered astronauts aboard the craft to initiate safety protocols for its first two cycles through the debris cloud.
Shortly after United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken commented on the matter, NASA administrator Bill Nelson offered his statement, expressing “outrage” at Russian authorities for putting lives at risk.
“Earlier today, due to the debris generated by the destructive Russian Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test, ISS astronauts and cosmonauts undertook emergency procedures for safety,” Nelson said in a press release distributed by NASA.
He added, “Like Secretary Blinken, I’m outraged by this irresponsible and destabilizing action. With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS, but also their own cosmonauts. Their actions are reckless and dangerous, threatening as well the Chinese space station and the taikonauts on board.”
According to the release, those aboard the ISS closed various hatches across the craft in case any debris impacted it. The hatches closed for the time being include the Columbus, Kibo, Permanent Multipurpose Module, Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, and the Quest Joint Airlock.
Furthermore, those on the ISS temporarily sheltered within their spacecraft for two hours early Monday morning as the craft orbited through the debris cloud twice.
“All nations have a responsibility to prevent the purposeful creation of space debris from ASATs and to foster a safe, sustainable space environment,” Nelson’s statement concluded. “NASA will continue monitoring the debris in the coming days and beyond to ensure the safety of our crew in orbit.”