Many think outer space is pretty empty; that maybe it's just a bunch of black nothingness with some planets floating around in it with stars and moons, and the occasional comet or asteroid.
On the contrary, space is very vast, and in its vastness, there are a lot of little space rocks, debris, and space trash that continually float around in space. Even scarier, much of the space trash and debris are actually moving several times faster than a bullet, just like the rest of the satellites orbiting the Earth.
Since the space trash is moving at such a fast speed, you can imagine that it can be quite dangerous for astronauts. Space trash consists of all kinds of junk that gets ejected from our atmosphere, including decommissioned satellites that are no longer in any use. They continue to float around in orbit when they're no longer needed.
Those aboard the International Space Station must always be actively ready to maneuver out of the path of space trash or to take shelter if necessary to not only prevent damage to the International Space Station, but also to preserve their lives in an emergency.
This Thursday, there was actually a case of taking emergency shelter aboard the International Space Station. The one American astronaut on board, and the two Russian Cosmonauts were forced to take emergency shelter in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that is docked aboard the International Space Station in case there was any chance that the space crew would have to make an emergency blast-off.
As it turns out, an old Russian weather satellite came dangerously close to the International Space Station and there wasn't much warning in advance. This meant that there was no way to move the International Space Station out of the way.
"The crew of the International Space Station is resuming normal operations after getting an all clear from Mission Control following a close pass by space debris this morning at 7:01 a.m. CDT," NASA said in a statement Thursday morning. "All station systems are operating normally and the crew will move out of the Soyuz spacecraft in which they stayed during the debris pass."
Fortunately, however, the satellite passed the International Space Station 1.5 miles away without colliding, which meant that the astronauts and cosmonauts could re-enter the International Space Station safely.
The International Space Station will have to be set up for normal operations again and the crew will be getting back to work as usual.
"They will reconfigure the station for normal operations and then continue their research work during the day," NASA continued. "This was the fourth time in the history of station operations that the crew has moved to the Soyuz due to a potential close pass of debris. This debris was from an old Russian weather satellite."
NASA notes that it's very rare that the International Space Station crew doesn't get warned early enough to make an evasive maneuver out of the way of space trash. In fact, it has only happened four times in the entire 16 years that the International Space Station has been in service, which is a pretty decent track record.
It's a good thing that the crew above the International Space Station always has an emergency plan to save their skins in events like this.