The debris missed the space station by only 820 feet which, in space terms, amounts to a close grazing. The astronauts spent nearly half an hour in the rescue craft, after which time the space debris safely passed by the space station without causing any damage.
“There was a piece of space debris that came near the station and we didn’t find out about it in time to perform a debris avoidance maneuver so we had the crew shelter in place in their Soyuz vehicles,” spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz of the US space agency told AFP
Because the debris wasn’t detected in advance, the space station didn’t have enough time to maneuver the station out of harm’s way.
A NASA spokesperson downplayed the situation, calling it “unusual but not unheard of.” After all, a similar close call occurred back in 2009 when the crew had to evacuate to the same rescue craft as another piece of space debris had a close call with the space station.
“We monitor space debris pretty closely so this is not, sort of, out of the realm of what we know can happen,” Schierholz said. “But obviously we are concerned about the safety of the crew so that is why we had them take shelter.”
Source: AFP via Gizmodo