The International Space Station was forced into an emergency maneuver last night to avoid a catastrophic collision with a rogue piece of space debris.
NASA said crew took shelter while controllers worked to urgently adjust the course of the floating lab, which orbits roughly 260 miles above Earth.
An American and a pair of Russians relocated to their Soyuz spacecraft as the change in course began so they could evacuate if necessary, NASA added.
The mystery object hurtled past the station at a distance of less than a mile at 11:21 pm BST (6:21 pm ET) on Wednesday.
The incident highlights the danger posed by a rising amount of space trash in our planet’s orbit.
“The @Space_Station has maneuvered 3 times in 2020 to avoid debris,” NASA boss Jim Bridenstine said following the near miss.
“In the last 2 weeks, there have been 3 high concern potential conjunctions. Debris is getting worse!”
NASA said it spotted the debris late and had to fire the engines of a Russian cargo spaceship attached to the International Space Station (ISS) to avert it.
Having safely dodged the object, Chris Cassidy, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, the current crew, have now resumed their regular duties.
Despite the need for an urgent maneuver, NASA claimed the crew was never in any danger.
The ISS orbits Earth at roughly 17,130 mph. At that speed, even a collision with a small piece of debris could cause massive damage
Space debris has grown exponentially since the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landings.
Today we have nearly 2,000 live satellites in space and more than 3,000 discarded ones that remain in orbit.
On top of that, disused rocket boosters can circle our planet for decades after they’re launched.
The ISS maneuvered to dodge such debris 25 times between 1999 and 2018, according to NASA.
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