Too Much Space Junk Makes Astronauts Sleep in Escape Pods
Photo credit: NASA
Creating trash seems to be a top skill among humans, even in space. The massive amounts of space debris has become increasingly a cause for concern, even prompting DARPA to ask everyone for their ideas on how to decrease what's out there orbiting around Earth. But now it's also an increasing concern for the astronauts on the International Space Station, who recently had to sleep in escape pods while a piece of potentially dangerous debris floated past. And it won't be the last time they have to do that. According to Daily Tech, "Due to the space debris, the crew had to sleep in two Russian Soyuz craft designed to be escape pods -- the actual trajectory of the debris was unknown, causing even more alarm from mission operators. It turned out, according to space officials, that the debris didn't come close to the ISS after all, but the decision to order the crew into the Soyuz escape craft was still a good idea."
The fact that it was close enough that the crew slept in the pods is telling. As more debris orbits the planet along with the ISS, there will be more instances of nights spent in the pods. It is enough of a concern that scientists are even looking into nanotechnology for ways to deflect space junk.
And in a (relatively speaking) miniscule effort to help, The United States Air Force has decided to earmark $500 million in 2010 to track space junk in orbit. That, combined with clever ways to clear it out (and minimize what ends up in orbit??), could help keep astronauts safe - and slightly more comfortable while sleeping.