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Orbital debris cancels spacewalk outside International Space Station

The International Space Station
The International Space Station

NASA is postponing a spacewalk outside the International Space Station Wednesday morning and space junk is to blame.

NASA astronauts Frank Rubio and Josh Cassada were scheduled to venture outside the orbiting outpost to install roll-out solar arrays on the station to augment the station's power capabilities.

But mission controllers on the ground spotted a piece of debris from a Russian spacecraft was on course to pass within less than a quarter of a mile from the station. NASA called off the spacewalk.

Ground teams also boosted the orbit of the station, using thrusters on a docked cargo ship. The thrusters fired for 10 minutes and 21 seconds, which maneuvered the ISS out of harm's way. NASA said at no point were any astronauts in danger.

Space debris is a growing problem for satellites, spacecraft, and NASA astronauts. Last year, a Russian anti-satellite weapon test created thousands of pieces of debris, forcing astronauts to take refuge in their docked spacecraft. The U.S. condemned the weapons test.

The space walk cancellation Wednesday comes a week after a Russian spacewalk was canceled after teams noticed a docked spacecraft leaking coolant. NASA and the Russian space agency continue to investigate the cause of that leak, which occurred on the Soyuz spacecraft that brought Rubio and two Russian cosmonauts to the station. The agencies are evaluating the safety of that vehicle to return the trio home.

Brendan Byrne is WMFE's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the WMFE newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing WMFE's internship program.

Byrne also hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.
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