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An Astronaut On The International Space Station Just Looked Out The Window And Saw This

Out of all the things that you don't want to see while revolving around the Earth in a pressure-sealed environment like the International Space Station, the scenario in the image above undoubtedly tops the list. This quarter-inch (7-mm) diameter mark in one of the windows of the Cupola - that small corner where astronauts generally take all their stunning pictures - was snapped by British astronaut Tim Peake this week against an inky backdrop of space. 

Peake in a European Space Agency (ESA) release, said "I am often asked if the International Space Station is hit by space debris. Yes - this is the chip in one of our Cupola windows, glad it is quadruple glazed!"


The good news is that this particular chip isn't a huge deal, and it's not that uncommon. It was most likely produced by the impact of a small piece of space debris, as ESA writes: "possibly a paint flake or small metal fragment no bigger than a few thousandths of a millimetre across,"

Although this piece of a space debris was tiny, but with the ISS continually falling towards Earth at a mind-boggling 7.66 km/s (4.7 mps), even the tiny specks of paint can have a big impact.

The good thing is that the space station is aimed to handle these sorts of small scrapes and nicks. All the windows on ISS are made from fused-silica and borosilicate-glass, and wide-range shielding around all the astronauts and technical areas.

According to ESA, an object up to 1 cm in size can damage an instrument or a critical flight system on a satellite. Anything larger than 1 cm could breach the shields of the Station’s crew modules, and anything larger than 10 cm could easily break a satellite or spacecraft into pieces.

To counter this threat, NASA and the ESA are persistently improving their debris-mitigation strategies. Part of that includes observing space junk above 1 cm in size so that they can calculate the risk of impact and direct the ISS out of harm's way if required.

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