A recent arrival at the International Space Station created a little too much excitement
The International Space Station was drifting. The station is always moving, of course, in a looping trajectory around Earth. But this, what mission control was seeing in the latest data, was unexpected, and unnerving. On Thursday morning, the space station was suddenly and mysteriously deviating from its course.
The massive pieces of NASA-built hardware that hold the space station in place couldn’t keep up with the motion, and within minutes, the station had been thrown out of its usual orientation.
NASA quickly turned to Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency. To counter the shift, Moscow’s mission control commanded one of its modules on the space station to ignite its engines, then instructed a cargo ship to fire its thrusters too. Inside the station, astronauts reconfigured important systems. Twice, ground control lost communications with the crew for several minutes. The longer the space station remained off track, the more scrambled its operations, including the communication system and solar panels, could become.
space – ufo
It took about an hour to drag the ISS back into its proper configuration, and regain what its operators call attitude control. The source of the disruption was another Russian module, which had just arrived at the station. The module, a laboratory named Nauka, the Russian word for “science,” had already had a rough journey, punctuated by propulsion and communications issues, with Russian engineers rushing to put it in the right orbit. Several hours after it docked, the module, reacting to a software glitch, started firing its thrusters uncontrollably, jostling the space station. When Nauka went rogue, and Moscow instructed hardware on the other side of the station to respond, the ISS found itself in what a NASA mission-control operator called “a tug of war.”
Seven astronauts were on board at the time—three American, two Russian, one French, and one Japanese. NASA later told reporters that the astronauts hadn’t felt any shaking or movement, and officials tried to assure the public that the crew was safe. “There was no immediate danger at any time to the crew,” Joel Montalbano, the ISS program manager at NASA, said in a press conference. “Obviously, when you have a loss of attitude control, that’s something you want to address right away, but the crew was never in any immediate emergency or anything like that.”