MOSCOW (AP) — RussianOfficials on Tuesday denied that astronauts were in danger aboard the space station. International Space StationBy conducting an weapons test that created more than 1,500 pieces of space junk but a White House official said the move by Russia would threaten activities in space “for years to come.”

U.S. officials charged Russia Monday with the destruction of an old satellite by a missile. It was a reckless, irresponsible strike. They said the debris could damage the space station, an assessment backed by NATO’s chief.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson explained to The Associated Press that astronauts face four times more risk from space junk than usual. Cosmos 1408, a Russian satellite that has since been decommissioned, orbited approximately 40 miles (65 km) above the station.

The test clearly demonstrates that Russia, “despite its claims of opposing the weaponization of outer space, is willing to … imperil the exploration and use of outer space by all nations through its reckless and irresponsible behavior,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said Tuesday that Russia’s action demonstrated its “complete disregard for the security, safety, stability and long-term sustainability of the space domain for all nations. This debris will continue to pose a direct threat to activities in outer space for years to come and puts at risk satellites all nations rely on for national security, economic prosperity and scientific discovery.” He said the United States would work with its allies “as we seek to respond to this irresponsible act.”

At 17,500 mph (28,000 km/h), even a small amount of paint can cause major damage. The space station could suffer a serious impact if something is done.

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Tuesday confirmed carrying out a test and destroying a defunct satellite that has been in orbit since 1982, but insisted that “the U.S. knows for certain that the resulting fragments, in terms of test time and orbital parameters, did not and will not pose a threat to orbital stations, spacecraft and space activities.” It called remarks by U.S. officials “hypocritical.”

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the strike was carried out “with surgical precision” and posed no threat to the space station. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also charged that it is “hypocrisy” to say that Russia creates risks for peaceful activities in space.

The Russian space agency Roscosmos wouldn’t confirm or deny that the strike took place, saying only that the “unconditional safety of the crew has been and remains our main priority.”

Once the situation became clear early Monday morning, those on board the International Space Station — four Americans, one German and two Russians — were ordered to immediately seek shelter in their docked capsules. They spent two hours in the two capsules, finally emerging only to have to close and reopen hatches to the station’s individual labs on every orbit, or 1 1/2 hours, as they passed near or through the space debris.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg agreed that Russia’s actions endangered the space station.

“This was a reckless act by Russia to actually shoot down and destroy a satellite as part of a test of an anti-satellite weapons system,” which created a lot of space debris, Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.

He said it was of additional concern “because it demonstrates that Russia is now developing new weapons systems that can shoot down the satellites, can destroy important space capabilities for basic infrastructure on Earth, like communications, like navigation, or like early warning of missile launches.”

The German Foreign Ministry also said it was “very concerned” by the test, which it said resulted in “additional risks” for the astronauts on the ISS.

“This irresponsible behavior carries a high risk of miscalculations and escalation,” the ministry said, adding that the test underlines the urgency of an international agreement on rules for the peaceful use of space.

NASA Mission Control said the heightened threat could continue to interrupt the astronauts’ science research and other work. Only four crew members arrived on the orbiting post Thursday night.

China also conducted a similar weapon test in 2007. Numerous pieces of debris were found. Last week one of them threatened to be dangerously close the space station. NASA made the space station move regardless of the risks it represented, even though NASA was able to dismiss them later.

In 2008, the U.S. conducted anti-satellite missile testing at lower altitudes than India. This was well below the orbit of the space station which is approximately 260 miles (442 kilometers) above the Earth.


This report was contributed by Marcia Dunn, Cape Canaveral Florida, Lorne cook in Brussels, Geir Molson in Berlin, and Darlene Superville, Washington D.C.


Share Your Comment Below


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here