On Tuesday (November 30), two NASA astronauts were scheduled to go out into space and replace a faulty 21-year-old antenna system. However, a space debris warning was issued to the International Space Station (ISS), causing the agency to postpone the event, citing "a lack of ability to properly assess the risk it could pose to astronauts," the agency said in a statement.
Concerns over space debris arose just a day after NASA officials showed that a cloud of debris created by a recent Russian anti-satellite defense test increased the risk to astronauts during the spacewalk. Space is more dangerous than ever after the recent Russian anti-satellite system (ASAT) tests.
During a briefing on Monday (November 29), Dana Weigel, deputy program manager for NASA's International Space Station, shared that the chances of a debris debris penetrating a spacesuit during a spacewalk is typically one in 2700, but Russian ASAT trials increased this risk by 7%.
Since the ASAT test happened very recently, it will take "several months to catalog all these (parts) and incorporate them into our normal debris tracking process, where we can estimate distances or how close these items are to the ISS," she added.
Weigel also added that the astronauts did not expect to make their way out into the open while taking specific actions to avoid the debris. “Typically, the wreck does not have a specific direction. So it’s impossible to predict what they will do during a spacewalk, ”Weigel said.
However, early on, shortly after the ASAT test, it was decided that the astronauts would take on several proactive tasks or optional extra measures from the EVA schedule.