The crew of the International Space Station took shelter on the morning of November 15 after a Russian missile destroyed a Soviet-era satellite, creating a debris field with thousands of pieces.
In a statement, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said “due to the debris generated by the destructive Russian Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test, ISS astronauts and cosmonauts undertook emergency procedures for safety.” According to reports, it was the first such test conducted by Moscow.
This audio clip, recorded from a NASA feed, captures mission control’s initial communications with the crew aboard the ISS as they began coordinating safety protocols in light of the satellite’s destruction.
A total of seven people are currently onboard the ISS, including two Russian cosmonauts. According to NASA, after taking initial precautionary measures, the crew took shelter inside spacecraft docked at the space station — a Russian Soyuz and a SpaceX Dragon capsule.
“The crew members made their way into their spacecraft shortly before 2 a.m. EST and remained there until about 4 a.m..,” NASA said on Monday. “The space station is passing through or near the cloud every 90 minutes, but the need to shelter for only the second and third passes of the event was based on a risk assessment made by the debris office and ballistics specialists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.”
In a briefing on Monday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said initial tests showed the Russian missile launch had created more than 1,500 pieces of “trackable orbital debris and hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris.”
“Russia’s dangerous and irresponsible behavior jeopardizes the long-term sustainability of outer space and clearly demonstrates that Russia’s claims of opposing the weaponization of space are disingenuous and hypocritical,” said Price.
On Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Serge Shoigu confirmed the missile launch, but downplayed any risk posed to the ISS. “We’ve really tested a successful forward-looking system,” said Shoigu. “It hit the old satellite.” Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos also reported that the space station was “in the green zone” and safe. Credit: NASA/Rob Dale via Storyful