Russia test accused of space junk threatening space station

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US officials say Russian weapons test created space junk now threatening seven astronauts aboard the International Space Station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A Russian weapons test has created more than 1,500 pieces of space junk that now threatens the seven astronauts aboard the International Space Station, US officials said Monday.

The State Department confirmed that the debris came from an old Russian satellite destroyed in Monday’s anti-satellite test.

“It was dangerous. It was reckless. It was irresponsible, “State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

On Monday, the four Americans, one German and two Russians on board were forced to seek refuge in their docked pods due to debris.

At least 1,500 pieces of the destroyed satellite were large enough to show on radar, Price said. But countless other fragments were too small to track down, but still posed a danger to the space station and the orbiting satellites.

“We will continue to make it clear that we will not tolerate this type of activity,” Price said.

NASA Mission Control said the heightened threat could continue for another couple of days and continue to disrupt scientific research and other astronaut work. Four of the seven crew members arrived at orbiting on Thursday night.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who is in the middle of a one-year mission, called it “a crazy but well-coordinated day” as he wished Mission Control good night.

“It was definitely a great way to bond as a crew, starting with our first day of work in space,” he said.

The US Space Command said it was monitoring the orbiting debris field. NASA hadn’t made any comments by mid-afternoon.

“Friends, everything is fine with us!” Tweeted the commander of the space station, the Russian Anton Shkaplerov.

The debris cloud appeared to pose a threat with every passing orbit – or every 1.5 hours. German astronaut Matthias Maurer was told to move his sleeping bag from the European laboratory to a safer place for the night.

As of Monday, around 20,000 pieces of space junk were being tracked. including old and broken satellites. Last week, a fragment of an old Chinese satellite – the target of a missile strike test in 2007 – threatened to come uncomfortably close. Though it was later dismissed as a risk, NASA still moved the space station.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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