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12 Mar, 2009 17:07

ISS avoids space junk disaster

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) had to evacuate the station and seek refuge in a capsule after space junk threatened to crash into the ISS.

Fortunately for the astronauts, the floating material never made contact and the crew was able to return to the orbiting space station, said specialists at NASA.

According to the American Space Agency, the astronauts moved to the Soyuz TMA-13 that was specially built in the case of such space trash encounters. After ten minutes the danger had passed and the crew returned to the ISS.

While in the capsule, the crew was safe and could undock from the station should the need arise.

“The crew was informed that the ISS was approaching the debris, after which they moved to the Soyuz capsule. They were there for 10 minutes. When they realized that the danger of collision had passed, they returned to the station and continued their work,” said a spokesman at NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston.

Valery Lyndin, Russia's Mission control spokesman, also confirmed the evacuation and said that NASA usually warns a day in advance of approaching debris but this time “we received the warning too late, which is why we decided to send the crew to the capsule.”

“They didn't close the hatch between the capsule and space station, but they had, however, put on space suits,” added Lyndin.

Currently on board the ISS are American captain Michael Fincke, Russian flight engineer Yury Lonchakov and American flight engineer Sandra Magnus.

“We were looking out the Soyuz window,” Captian Fincke radioed to Houston. “We didn't see anything of course. We were wondering how close we were.”

According to NASA, the debris was about one-third of an inch (0.8 cm) in width.