Space Station Debris Avoidance Maneuver Cancelled
November 17, 2012

Space Junk Passes ISS At Safe Distance

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A scheduled debris avoidance maneuver was cancelled after tracking data showed that an unknown piece of space debris would pass by the International Space Station (ISS) at a safe distance, NASA officials have announced.

The decision to forgo the maneuver, which would have steered the ISS clear of the space junk's path, was made by American and Russian flight controllers after they received updated tracking data revealing that the debris would miss the station by 1.7 miles -- placing it "in the 'green' regime, a safe distance away from the complex, and much further from the station than previous tracking passes displayed," the US space agency said in a statement.

Furthermore, Flight Director Holly Ridings determined that the ISS crew members would not have to retreat to their respective Soyuz modules for protection from the potential threat, which made its closest approach to the station at 12:54pm Eastern time on Friday.

NASA reports that none of the crew members were in any danger, and that three of them -- Expedition 33 Commander Suni Williams and Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Aki Hoshide -- had spent Friday morning preparing to depart the ISS and return home to Earth. Williams, Malenchenko, and Hoshide are scheduled to depart from the space station at 5:26pm Sunday, and land in Kazakhstan at 8:53pm Eastern that evening.

"The home-bound Expedition 33 trio climbed into their Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft for more checks Friday," NASA explained. "They tested the vehicle´s motion control system and conducted final descent training. At the end of their mission they will have spent 127 days in space and 125 days aboard the station."

Williams and Flight Engineer Kevin Ford will participate in a change of command ceremony Saturday at 2:15pm Eastern, and Ford will assume the role of Expedition 34 commander. He and Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin will remain on board the facility.

This is Williams' second mission on the ISS. She was a member of the Expedition 14 crew from December 2006 through June 2007. Malenchenko has been to the station on four occasions, including stints as a member of the team that prepped the station for its first permanent crew in September 2000 and as the commander of Expedition 7 in 2003. This marked Hoshide's first residency onboard the ISS. His only previous spaceflight experience came in June 2008, as a member of the crew of the space shuttle discovery, according to NASA.