During the recent successful trip of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station as part of the Crew 2 mission, the astronauts received a collision alert with an unidentified object.
As the ship sailed through space to reach its destination, the Pentagon notified NASA of a possible collision around 1:30 p.m. EST (7:30 a.m. KST). Originally seen as an immediate danger to the crew, the previously unknown object was later discovered around 45 km away.
A smooth encounter
Granted, this distance seems long enough to dispel any fear, but in terms of space travel – which generally covers tens of thousands of kilometers per hour – it is relatively narrow.
Fortunately, the capsule and object crossed smoothly, allowing Elon Musk’s company ship to safely continue its journey to the ISS. “The NASA / SpaceX team was made aware of the possible collision by the US Space Command,” NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries told Futurism. “The tracked object is classified as ‘unknown’. “”
The astronauts put on their pressure suits for safety reasons
According to Humphries, the threat was really so real that NASA ordered Thomas Pesquet and his colleagues to put on their pressurized spacesuits in preparation for the worst.
Official photo of the SpaceX Crew 2 mission crew left to right: Megan McArthur, Thomas Pesquet, Akihiko Hoshide, and Shane Kimbrough. Photo credit: NASA
The warning was issued approximately 7 hours after takeoff from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 23. Remember, the 43-year-old French crew consisted of Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur from NASA and Akihiko Hoshide, an astronaut from the Japan Aerospace Agency (JAXA).
The investigations are ongoing
SpaceX’s spaceship works completely autonomously, but those on board can control it manually if necessary. Fortunately, this was not required in this incident. At the moment we do not yet know the true nature of this object, which almost threatened the mission of Crew-2 of the American Space Agency. Investigations are ongoing.
It is possible that it is space debris or a piece of rock. In any case, it underlines the dangerousness of space travel. According to NASA astronomer Jack Bacon, most space debris moves at more than 28,000 km / h. At this speed, a collision with an aluminum fragment only 10 centimeters in size could cause damage comparable to an explosion of 7 kg of TNT.
In the end it was a false positive
“After further analysis, the 18th Space Control Squadron (18th SPCS) quickly determined that the possible connection between the capsule and the object was a false alarm,” said the US Space Command on Twitter.
According to US Space Command, Friday afternoon concern about a piece of space debris, possibly on a collision course with the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule (and the four astronauts inside), was based on an “inaccurate report.” pic.twitter.com/lQMmCthp05
– Kenneth Chang (@kchangnyt) April 25, 2021
“There was never any risk of collision with Crew Dragon. Corresponding notifications were given within minutes and the astronauts were able to continue their mission safely. “The incident is being analyzed to” determine the cause of this false positive. “