September 3, 2009

NASA watches space debris near the ISS

NASA astronauts prepared Thursday for another spacewalk despite reports of space debris moving toward the International Space Station.

NASA said astronauts Danny Olivas and Christer Fuglesang spent their sleep period inside an ISS airlock in preparation for the second STS-128 spacewalk, scheduled to begin at 5:19 p.m. EDT Thursday.

John McCullough, NASA flight director, said it did not appear likely the docked space shuttle Discovery would have to fire its thrusters to move it and the space station in a debris avoidance maneuver. However, he said a final decision will be made during the last hour of Thursday's spacewalk and controllers were developing a plan, should it become necessary.

McCullough said the debris that was being tracked is approximately 204 square feet and is in an elliptical orbit. The closest approach -- just under two miles from the station -- is expected at 10:06 a.m. EDT Friday, he said.

CNN said the debris is from a European Ariane series rocket launched in 2006.