Watch: Unidentified object caught on camera flying close to SpaceX capsule
Four SpaceX astronauts who had just settled into orbit were ordered back into their spacesuits because of a potential collision with junk.
Footage of the moment a piece of space junk narrowly missed four astronauts onboard the SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule has emerged.
The spacecraft spectacularly docked at the station on Saturday, nearly 24 hours after its departure from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
But the NASA Crew-2 mission had a moment of suspense on Friday as the spacecraft escaped being missed by a piece of debris, known as conjunction, by a whisker.
The four astronauts on board were about to go to sleep after a long day of outer space travel when the encounter happened at about 1:43 p.m
A spokeswoman for Space Command said it was believed at the time that an object was going to come close to the newly launched capsule carrying a crew to the International Space Station.
It turned out there was no object and no threat, the US Space Command acknowledged on Monday. The false alarm is under review.
"We quickly realised this was a reporting error," she wrote in an email, "and that there was never a collision threat because there was no object at risk of colliding with the capsule."
She declined to comment further, saying additional information should be available later this week once they understand what happened.
Astronauts typically get a fair amount of advance notice of potential close calls, with enough time to even dodge out of the way, if necessary.
Friday's situation, however, happened just hours after liftoff.
The Space Command's 18th Space Control Squadron immediately alerted NASA.
Then SpaceX and NASA notified the astronauts, urging them to put on their suits and lower their helmet visors. The drama played out live on NASA TV.
The US, French and Japanese astronauts had practised this many times before flight, according to a NASA spokesman.
"Of course, we're always happy to hear that there never was a threat, but we're also glad the procedures were in place and the crew would have been ready if the threat had been real," he said.
The Dragon capsule and its crew safely reached the space station on Saturday, with no further surprises. The new arrivals will spend six months there.
Based at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, the 18th Space Control Squadron is tracking more than 32,000 objects in orbit, mostly defunct satellites and rocket parts.
Some is as small as 4 inches. Even something that little can do big damage to a spacecraft at high speed. The space station is particularly vulnerable because of its sprawling size.
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