US Blasts Reckless Russia Space Missile Test That Forced ISS Astronauts To Take Shelter

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On November 15, 2021 Russia fired an Anti-Satellite test (ASAT) missile leaving behind orbital debris that could pose a danger to those on the International Space Station (ISS). The test, which was directed at one of its own satellites, led to the United States Department of State issuing a statement and capturing the attention of nations around the world.

The crew of the ISS were awakened from their slumber and directed to close the hatches to the radial modules on the station. Both American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts comprise the crew at present, along with one German astronaut. The fact that Russia would perform such a reckless action while having some of their own cosmonauts aboard the ISS has left many confused and angry. The hatches between the astronauts and cosmonauts remain open.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson released a statement shortly after the incident which in part said, "Earlier today, due to the debris generated by the destructive Russian Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test, ISS astronauts and cosmonauts undertook emergency procedures for safety."  He also added, "With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the iSS, but also their own cosmonauts."

The U.S, Department of State issued a statement of its own. It described the test as having generated over fifteen hundred pieces of trackable orbital debris and likely generating hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris. It added, "The long-lived debris created by this dangerous and irresponsible test will now threaten satellites and other space objects that are vital to all nation's security, economic, and scientific interests for decades to come."

It is believed that Russia was carrying out a test on its PL-19 Nudol surface-to-space missile from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. The missile has been tested more that ten times to date without ever hitting a target in space. However, this time the missile struck a target, an old Russian intelligence satellite called Cosmos-1408. The satellite and remnants of the missile are what make up the debris field that has endangered other satellites and possibly the lives of those on the ISS and taikonauts aboard the Chinese space station.

Contention in space has been around since the early ventures into the world beyond our own atmosphere. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty was drafted and forbids countries from deploying "nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction" in space. This has left a large window in which countries, including the US, have been pushing the envelope of its scope. Especially since those who drafted it more than likely had no inkling of where we would be at in terms of present day technology.

Nelson added in his statement, "All nations have a responsibility to prevent the purposeful creation of space debris from ASATs and to foster a safe, sustainable space environment." It is impossible to know at the moment what the true intentions of Russia were when launching its ASAT. But it brings to mind the ever present thought of how space itself can quickly become the next territory where nations will battle it out for supremacy in ways only science fiction writers could have dreamed just decades ago.

It would seem that Monday's incident has caught the attention of the world at large. The US, Russia, China and other nations are developing technologies that can be deemed as threats from above. As nations continue to develop new spacecraft and ways of deploying its payload, the space theater has become not only a race to see who can gain the lead, but perhaps who can gain dominance in the realm.