The U.S.-Russian crew of the international space station heard what sounded like a “tin can” being crushed against the outer hull, but Russian space officials said Thursday that the men were safe and there were no immediate signs of any damage.
InsertArt(2080612)A SPACE OFFICIAL said the sound might have been produced by equipment on the station, but a spokesman for Russia’s Space Forces attributed the noise to a brush with floating space junk.
The station is manned by U.S. astronaut Michael Foale and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri.
“It sounded like a metal tin can kind of being expanded and compressed,” Foale said. “It was a noise that lasted about a second. It sounded like an impact or something.”
Foale and Kaleri continued their normal maintenance and research activities. They planned to observe Thanksgiving with a light work schedule and a meal that included turkey, chicken and rice.
SYSTEMS ‘WORKING NORMALLY’
Valery Lyndin, a spokesman for Mission Control outside Moscow, said “all the station’s systems are working normally” after the sound was reported Wednesday morning. An inspection of the station’s outer surface by outside cameras found no signs of damage, he told The Associated Press.
Sergei Gorbunov, a spokesman for the Russian Aerospace Agency, said on NTV television that the crew heard what “sounded as if a tin can was being crushed” but that the ensuing check found no trace of impact.
“The check made by the crew found no changes either in the equipment section or the atmosphere of the station, which would have changed instantly if the station’s skin were punctured,” Gorbunov said.
The sound might have come from some of the station’s equipment, not a collision, he said.
However, a spokesman for the Russian Space Forces, which focus on monitoring the Russian satellite fleet but also keep track of the space station, said the station collided with a piece of space junk.
The spokesman told the AP on condition of anonymity that the space forces detected an object along the station’s orbit. They determined that the object was very small and would pose no danger to the craft.
Thousands of pieces of debris from spacecraft orbit the Earth, and the Space Forces monitor them to make sure there is no threat to the station or satellites. If a piece of debris is big enough to threaten damage, spacecraft are directed to safer orbits.
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