Space Rock Slams into ISS Solar Panels: Bullet-sized Hole Created

First Posted: Apr 30, 2013 09:54 AM EDT

Space is a dangerous place to live, and astronauts at the International Space Station were reminded of that just the other day. A small space rock slammed into one of the solar panels on the ISS and created a bullet-sized hole as it passed on through.

Debris whips through space at astonishing speeds. The space station itself actually zips along at 4.8 miles per second, according to SlashGear. It's these speeds in particular that make space such a dangerous place and explains the impact that some meteorites, such as the one that appeared over the Ural mountains in Russia, can have on our planet.

Yet not all of this debris is natural. Earth is experiencing an increase in space debris that orbit our planet--leftovers from previous missions. Parts from old satellites and miscellaneous junk now whip around Earth and present hazards for new pieces of equipment being sent up into orbit. In fact, the problem was highlighted by the 6th European Conference on Space Debris that took place on April 25.

"There is a wide and strong expert consensus on the pressing need to act now to begin debris removal activities," said Heiner Klinkard, head of the European Space Agency's Space Debris Office, about the space debris problem. "Our understanding of the growing space debris problem can be compared with our understanding of the need to address Earth's changing climate some 20 years ago."

In this case, the small space rock didn't cause much damage to the solar panels on the ISS. In fact, it looks like a small speck compared to the sheer size of the panels on the station. Chris Hadfield, the ISS Commander, actually tweeted an image of the small hole just the other day, saying that he was glad that it missed the hull of the station.

Although this time the damage was minor, larger pieces of rock could cause severe damage to the space station. It's important to keep that in mind both when building new pieces of the station and also when dealing with the issue of space junk.

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