Satellite debris expected within half a mile of space station

NASA says debris may threaten the International Space Station, seen here from Atlantis in February 2008.
A piece of an old Soviet-era satellite spinning through space could threaten the International Space Station overnight, NASA said Monday.

On its current course, the piece of the Russian Kosmos 1275 will arrive about a half a mile (.79 kilometers) from the space station at 2:14 a.m. CDT Tuesday, said Bill Jeffs, a spokesman at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. NASA may decide to conduct a “debris avoidance maneuver,” which involves firing rockets so that the space station moves in a direction away from the debris’ path, Jeffs said. Officials were monitoring the debris closely and planned to decide by 6 p.m. whether to carry out the maneuver. Jeffs said the dimensions of the satellite debris are not known.

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Three people are on the space station, astronauts Mike Fincke and Sandy Magnus and cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov .

Last week, a piece of debris forced the crew to take shelter in its escape capsule, a rare close call for the orbiting platform, NASA said. See, share your photos of launches and space That object, a chunk of metal from a satellite rocket motor used on an earlier space mission, was about 5 inches across and moved at nearly 20,000 mph. It passed within 3 miles of the station early Thursday afternoon.