Russiancosmonauts climbed out of the International Space Station last Wednesdayafternoon to install protective panels on the Zvezda Service Module. CommanderFyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineer Oleg Kotov completed the planned workfive hours later. The space walk was delayed due to problems encountered duringcommunication checks. The 17 protective panels, each about 2 feet by 3 feet andweighing 15 to 20 pounds each, were delivered to the station last December.
Flight engineer Kotov retrieved three bundles of ServiceModule Debris Protection Panels and then attached them to Zvezda (see location).Zvezdaprovides some of the station's life support systems, as well as living quartersfor two crewmen with a treadmill and a bicycle for exercise. A second spacewalkplanned for June 6th will complete the installation.
NASA engineers are concerned that orbital debris,in the form of everything from rocket parts to ChineseASAT test debris to dropped wrenches, will damage the ISS. It will bepossible to turn the ISS slightly to present a shield to oncoming debris,assuming that the object is big enough to be tracked.
Sciencefiction writers have been working on protection for spacecraft forgenerations now, and frankly, nobody's interested in those passive bolt-onpanels. To paraphrase Han Solo, panels are fine but they're "no match fora good blaster at your side."
In his 1945 classic First Contact, writer MurrayLeinster puts his money on blasters as the best way to deal with any objectlarge enough to damage your ship.
I know it's a lot of extra work, but it gives you a smootherride than those deflectorshields that George Lucas suggests. If you didn't mind using a bit ofpropellant, you could try the solution that George O. Smith suggests in his1943 story Recoil – meteor-spotting radar:
But then, of course, you don't get to use your blasters.
(This Science Fiction in the News story used withpermission from Technovelgy.com - wherescience meets fiction.)