National Aeronautics and Space Administration chief Jim Bridenstine on Monday deplored India’s anti-satellite missile test last week, saying that the event created 60 pieces of orbital debris big enough to track. Of these, 24 pieces rise higher than the International Space Station’s orbit around Earth, Space.com quoted Bridenstine as saying.
Bridenstine was addressing a NASA town hall meeting in Washington DC. He claimed that the kind of risk the test caused to human beings in space was unacceptable. Bridenstine said the United States space agency has identified over 400 pieces of debris in total.
“That is a terrible, terrible thing, to create an event that sends debris in an apogee that goes above the International Space Station,” Bridenstine said. “And that kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight that we need to see happen.”
The agency estimates that the risk to the International Space Station from small debris has risen by 44% in 10 days. “We are charged with commercializing low Earth orbit; we are charged with enabling more activities in space than we’ve ever seen before for the purpose of benefiting the human condition...All of those are placed at risk when these kind of events happen – and when one country does it, then other countries feel like they have to do it as well.”
However, the NASA chief added that all of its astronauts are safe, and said the International Space Station will be manoeuvered if necessary to avoid the debris. He said the debris will dissipate with the passage of time as it is burnt up in the atmosphere.
Debris from China’s 2007 anti-satellite missile launch is still floating around in space. The test created nearly 3,000 pieces of debris, AFP reported. The United States military is currently tracking 23,000 objects in space, of which 10,000 are debris.