Thursday, October 05, 2006
Around the Earth orbit thousands of pieces of debris, from dead satellites to screws, bolts, and paint flakes. Despite being spread out over the vast expanse of near-Earth space, this junkyard poses a threat to every spacecraft. On its last mission, the Space Shuttle Atlantis was hit by a tiny piece of debris that left a hole about a tenth of an inch (2.5mm) in the right payload bay door radiator. This impact posed no threat to the Shuttle and crew, but illustrates one more hazard that must be accounted for in our plans for the final frontier.