Space Station Astronauts Informed of Satellite Crash
Astronauts Michael Fincke, Expedition 18 commander, and Sandra Magnus, flight engineer, hold Christmas cookies while posing for a photo near the galley in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station.
Credit: NASA

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station thanked the world for its concern over their safety following the Tuesday collision of two satellites, but said they were confident the collision poses little risk to their spacecraft.

Space station commander Michael Fincke of NASA told Mission Control today that his crew appreciated the concern and was glad to hear that the satellite collision has not affected the planned early-morning arrival of a new Russian cargo ship at the station on Friday.

?We understand that a lot of people around the planet were worried for our health and safety,? Fincke radioed down. ?We were touched by that and we?d like to say thank you.?

Analysts have assured the station crew that the two clouds of debris created in Tuesday?s collision between a U.S. Iridium 33 communications satellite and a non-operational Russian military communications satellite dubbed Cosmos 2251 poses a relatively minor risk to the space station. The collision occurred as the two satellites were flying 490 miles (790 km) above Siberia. The International Space Station typically flies in a much lower orbit of about 220 miles (354 km) above Earth.

?We?ve also been informed that we?re quite okay and we believe that because we?re in very good hands,? Fincke said.

NASA officials have said that only a minor amount of debris created in the unprecedented accidental collision between the 1,234-pound (560-kg) Iridium 33 satellite and Russia?s 1,984-pound (900-kg) Cosmos 2251 is expected to descend across the space station?s orbit.

Analysts and the U.S. Space Surveillance Network are keeping a close eye on the debris clouds to determine what risk they may pose to higher unmanned satellites, such as Earth-observation spacecraft and the Hubble Space Telescope. The risk of secondary collisions from the debris is relatively remote, but more time is needed to measure the extent of the debris clouds, NASA officials told late Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Fincke and his space station is crew are preparing for the planned Friday arrival of a new Russian cargo ship hauling more than 2 1/2 tons of fresh food, clothing and vital equipment to the orbiting laboratory.

The unmanned Progress 32 spacecraft launched toward the station on Tuesday and is due to dock at the outpost?s Earth-facing Pirs docking port at 2:19 a.m. EST (0719 GMT) on Friday. It replaces an older space freighter, Progress 31, which undocked from the space station last week and intentionally burned up in the Earth?s atmosphere on Sunday.

Packed inside Progress 32 are more than 1,910 pounds (866 kg) of propellant for the space station?s engines, 110 pounds (50 kg) of oxygen and air and 2,860 pounds (1,297 kg) of dry cargo, including food, clothing, experiment hardware and other supplies. Russian wire reports also stated that the spacecraft is carrying a new Russian-built spacesuit.

Space station flight engineer Sandra Magnus of NASA told last week that she and her crewmates also requested a fresh supply of chocolate, instant coffee and a tasty Russian cream cheese-like dessert.

?It sounds like the Progress is still on schedule and we?re ready to meet it,? Fincke told Mission Control.

NASA will broadcast the docking of Progress 32 at the International Space Station live on NASA TV on Friday beginning at 1:30 a.m. EST (0630 GMT). Click here for a link to live NASA TV feed and space station mission updates.