When you’ve got a chip in your windscreen it’s recommended that you get it fixed as quickly as possible to stop it shattering completely.
So imagine the panic when the chip’s not in the windscreen of something as mundane as a car, but in the window of the International Space Station.
According to Mashable British astronaut Tim Peake spotted a chip in the station’s window back in April, and although it doesn’t pose a large threat to the ISS it’s no less worrying for those on board.
— Tim Peake (@astro_timpeake) May 12, 2016
The dent was caused by a small piece of ‘space junk’ which may have been as small as a chip of paint or even a tiny piece of metal just a millimetre wide.
The European Space Agency has said:
An object up to 1 cm in size could disable an instrument or a critical flight system on a satellite.
Anything above 1 cm could penetrate the shields of the Station’s crew modules, and anything larger than 10 cm could shatter a satellite or spacecraft into pieces.
It’s currently believed that they’re millions of pieces of space junk hurtling around at speeds faster than 17,000 mph.
Despite there being literally tonnes of debris currently in orbit NASA only keeps track on just over 500,000 of the biggest bits of space junk, basically anything bigger than a marble.
By mapping this space rubbish NASA can help direct the ISS away from the more dangerous bits of debris.
Scarily for astronauts however there are millions of pieces that are to small to be tracked by space agencies, including whatever hit the station’s window.
Other astronauts have also documented debris smashing into the station, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield tweeted a photo of a tiny hole in one of the station’s solar panels, which was probably caused by a tiny bit of junk.
The junk comes from the countless space launches and satellites that have launched in the last half a century or so.
Bullet hole – a small stone from the universe went through our solar array. Glad it missed the hull. pic.twitter.com/iBHFVfp1p8
— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) April 29, 2013
NASA’s now working on ways of clearing up the skies before the debris becomes a real problem for both international space agencies or private owned companies.
Back on the Space Station the astronauts will no doubt be a bit worried about the chip in their window it’s not like they can just Autoglass…