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Q&A: What Happens When a Meteor Hits the ISS

17 Aug 2015, 07:01 UTC
Q&A: What Happens When a Meteor Hits the ISS
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Question: After reading your post about the Perseid Meteor Shower last week, I couldn’t help but wonder if these things present any danger to the International Space Station. Has the ISS ever been hit by a meteor? — JR, Oceanside, CA
Answer: The short answer is yes. The ISS has been hit many times, but never been damaged to the point of any real danger to the crew. It’s a large “target” as you can see from the above graphic — about the size of a regulation football field, so it gets hit quite often. Fortunately, all those hits have been from relatively small pieces of debris.
I discussed a related question in my June 16, 2014 post: Meteor Showers and the ISS, but will go into more detail here.
Interestingly, the hazard is not just meteors. There’s also thousands of fragments of “space junk” left over from rocket launches, satellites that have collided, and even tools “dropped” by space-walking astronauts. To get a feel for just how much debris is out there, check out the real-time display at Stuff in Space. That page will take awhile to load — it’s plotting the positions of close to 500,000 known objects.

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