Space junk slams into space station, leaving gaping hole in robotic arm

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A space junk collision has left a hole in the International Space Station.

A tiny piece of floating space debris struck a robotic arm on the ISS and has caused some visible damage.

According to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the robotic arm is attached to the outside of the ISS and “a small section of the arm boom and thermal blanket” has been damaged.

The issue was first noticed during a routine inspection on May 12.

The arm, called Canadarm2, has continued to complete tasks and planned operations.

The CSA revealed the surprising damage in a recent blog post.

It said: “While the utmost precautions are taken to reduce the potential for collisions with the ISS, impacts with tiny objects do occur.

“One such hit was noticed recently during a routine inspection of Canadarm2 on May 12.

“Experts from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and NASA worked together to take detailed images of the area and assess the impact, which occurred on one of Canadarm2’s boom segments.

“Despite the impact, results of the ongoing analysis indicate that the arm’s performance remains unaffected.”

Space can be a harsh and unforgiving environment for the robots and humans that explore it: the hazards are many, from massive temperature swings to radiation and orbital debris.
Space can be a harsh and unforgiving environment for the robots and humans that explore it: The hazards are many, from massive temperature swings to radiation and orbital debris.
NASA/Canadian Space Agency

Thanks to human exploration, space is full of junk and debris just floating around.

NASA is said to track over 27,000 pieces of space junk so it can try to predict or avoid potential collisions.

Some pieces are too small to be tracked but could still cause a large amount of damage to space missions.

The CSA said: “Over 23,000 objects the size of a softball or larger are tracked 24/7 to detect potential collisions with satellites and the International Space Station (ISS).

“A number of tiny objects — ranging from rock or dust particles to flecks of paint from satellites — are also too small to be monitored.

“The threat of collisions is taken very seriously. NASA has a long-standing set of guidelines to ensure the safety of Station crew. The safety of astronauts on board the orbiting laboratory remains the top priority of all Station partners.”

Visible damage can be seen on the robotic arm.
Damage can be seen on the robotic arm.
NASA/Canadian Space Agency

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