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Space debris crashes and damages the International Space Station.

The inevitable happened A piece of space debris that is too small to track. Crash and destroy part of the International Space Station. That’s the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

The tool is still working. But the object penetrated the heat sink and damaged the boom below. It’s a reminder that the space junk problem of low Earth orbit is a time bomb.

Clearly, space agencies around the world are aware of the problem of space junk. More than 23,000 pieces are being tracked in terrestrial orbit to help satellites and the International Space Station avoid collisions. But all of them are the size of a softball or larger.

Anything below that size is too small to track. But traveling at orbital speed can still cause significant damage. including piercing through metal plates

Hubble punchThe remaining impact hole in the Hubble Space Telescope antenna in 1997 (NASA).

Canadarm2 – officially known as the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) designed by the Canadian Space Agency – has been aboard the space station for 20 years. outside the ISS including cargo shuttle and station maintenance

It’s unclear when the impact occurred. The first damage was found on May 12. During routine investigations, NASA and CSA worked together to take detailed images and assess the damage.

“Despite the impact But ongoing analysis indicates that arm performance remains unaffected,” the CSA wrote in a blog post. “The damage is limited to a small fraction. of the boom arm and heat shield Canadarm2 continues as planned.”

Although the ISS seems lucky this time But the problem of space debris seems to be increasing. Last year, the International Space Station had to perform three emergency maneuvers to avoid colliding with space debris at an altitude of about 400 kilometers (250 miles).

Since the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, space debris has accumulated. According to the European Space Agency, approximately 130 million pieces of human material smaller than a millimeter orbit the Earth now. That estimate does not include natural space dust.

Tim Florer, head of ESA’s space junk office, said: “To continue to benefit from science, technology and information in space. It is important that we better adhere to existing space debris reduction guidelines in the design and operation of spacecraft.”

“It cannot be emphasized enough – this is essential for sustainable use of space.”

Robot operations on the ISS using Canadarm2 will continue as planned for the foreseeable future, the CSA said, but both space agencies will continue to collect data to analyze the event. both to understand how the event happened and to assess future risks

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