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NASA Gives ISS All-Clear After Debris Passes

Station Crew Takes Precautionary Measures

ANN REALTIME UPDATE 03.12.09 1300 EDT: All clear. NASA reports the debris threat to the International Space Station has passed. The crew was notified of the all clear at 12:45 pm EDT, and is now departing the Soyuz capsule in anticipation of returning the station to normal operations.

It not yet known how close the debris -- a spent satellite rocket motor -- passed to the station.

At least one Russian Soyuz capsule remains attached to the ISS at all times, in order to serve as a "lifeboat" in case of an emergency event that requires the crew to evacuate the station. A second capsule will be added when the station reaches its maximum normal crew complement of six, which is expected later this year.

Original Report

1215 EDT: NASA reports International Space Station Expedition 18 crew members are taking precautionary measures Thursday, due to space debris that has been determined to be within the range where a collision is possible.

The debris in question is a portion of a spent satellite motor, which will pass within the distance of the station's debris avoidance maneuver requirement "box." News of the close approach came too late for flight controllers to coordinate an avoidance maneuver, however, forcing the crew

Crew members entered the station's Soyuz TMA-13 "lifeboat" and soft-locked the hatches, in case the debris should affect the space station and they are required to undock. The closure of the hatches ensures the safety of the crew and the ability to quickly depart the station in case the debris collided with the station causing a depressurization.

The time of closest approach of the debris to the station is 12:39 pm EDT. Once the object is clear of the station, the crew will exit the Soyuz and reopen the hatches.

The crew will be in the Soyuz from 12:35-12:45 pm EDT. They will remain in the Soyuz until the debris risk has passed.

NASA stressed moving the crew into the Soyuz is a precaution, as the probability of impact is low. The crew is currently putting space station into an unmanned configuration, including several interior station hatches.

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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