The International Space Station could be highly damaged by the thousands of debris currently in space. It is impossible now for its astronauts to head out for spacewalking and repair parts of the ISS.
According to NASA, a direct-ascent anti-satellite missile destroyed Russian satellite Cosmos-1408 (ASAT) launched from Plesetsk in northwest Russia between late November 14 and early November 15.
Now destroyed, the 40-year-old satellite remains in space as its pieces are still floating.
That kind of space pollution could be dangerous for the ISS itself and prevent any astronaut from working on the station from outside.
For instance, the debris could potentially puncture an astronaut’s spacesuit.
On Tuesday, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron were scheduled to replace an external antenna on the ISS.
After Mission Control found too many pieces of debris floating around, they aborted the outside duty.
Station managers delayed the spacewalk until Thursday.
The two astronauts will still have a 7% greater risk of a spacewalk puncture because of the Russian-generated debris.
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NASA officials said the November 15 missile test also created thousands of more pieces of dangerous debris, too small to be observed from the ground but still with the potential to damage satellites.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned Russia, arguing that they had put their cosmonauts onboard the ISS at risk, as well as the three people on China’s space station.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said: “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 cosmonauts.”
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace also shared his outrage: “This destructive anti-satellite missile test by Russia shows a complete disregard for the security, safety and sustainability of space.”