NASA Chief Administrator Jim Bridenstine has described a recent anti-satellite missile test in India, which destroyed a satellite in a near-Earth orbit and bombed 400 debris into space, a "terrible, terrible thing" ,
"This kind of activity is not compatible with the future of manned space flight," said Bridenstine at a livestream gathering of NASA staff in the Town Hall. "It's unacceptable, and NASA needs to know very well what impact it has on us."
India announced that it had conducted the "Mission Shakti", an anti-satellite missile test on March 27, which destroyed one of the countries of the country's satellite. The mission's success made India only the fourth nation to pass such a test after previous tests by the US, Russia and China.
In the official press release, the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the test was conducted in 2003. The "lower atmosphere" ensures that there is no space debris, and even if there was debris generated there, within a few weeks it would be on the Earth falling back ̵
" Claims that are devastating events like these. says Alice Gorman, an Australian space archaeologist and debris expert. "Any fragmentation event, whether intentional or accidental, increases the risk of collision with functioning satellites."
During NASA's city hall, Bridenstine noted that the destruction of the Indian satellite produced more than 400 pieces of debris, and NASA is currently tracking 60 of them. Indeed, a subset of these individuals will be orbiting over the ISS and potentially jeopardizing the station and the astronauts within it if it collided with the station.
"The risk for the International Space Station has increased by 44 percent," said Bridenstine
Remarkably, there are emergency procedures at the station if the NASA junk head for the space base. In general, the crew members jump into the station's "lifeboats": the capsules that allow them to travel to and from Earth. If the station was hit, they could be dropped. Fortunately, the astronauts on board had previously sought refuge in the capsule. However, they never had to be evacuated.
In the recent destruction of the satellite, it is unlikely that such a scenario will occur.
"The good thing is that it's so low that in the course of time in Earth orbit all will disperse," said Bridenstine, who faced this incident with a 2007 Chinese anti-satellite test that produced a debris field that always still orbiting the earth.
Several companies have worked on ways to reduce the potentially dangerous space debris field that accumulates around the earth,or . The concern is that if the earth's low orbit is filled with garbage, an unstoppable destruction cascade can occur if debris hits the wrong satellite. In the so-called "Kessler syndrome" satellites and space infrastructure are constantly torn apart by a wave of rubble.
While nations can destroy their own assets in space, the deliberate creation of a debris field is a simple demonstration of power designed to show other nations their abilities to destroy satellites. Gorman says, "There is no good scientific reason for such tests".
"They are merely a visible demonstration of power," she says.
The good news is that Bridenstine says for now The station and the astronauts inside are hardly endangered.
"While the risk increased by 44 percent, our astronauts are still safe, the International Space Station is still safe," said Bridenstine. If the ISS gets into trouble, it could be maneuvered to avoid possible collisions.
"At the end of the day, we also need to clarify that these activities are not sustainable or compatible with human space travel."