NASA
Spin Me Right Round

The Space Station Incident Was Far Worse Than NASA Admitted

byDan Robitzski
Aug 3
NASA

The ISS spun nearly enough to qualify for Olympic skateboarding.

Record Baby

Last week, calamity nearly struck the International Space Station when Russia’s newly-docked Nauka module accidentally fired its thrusters and sent the space station literally spinning.

Now, it seems the problem was worse than anyone admitted at the time. Initially, NASA announced that the ISS had rotated about 45 degrees away from its original position. But faced with reporting from The New York Times, the space agency confirmed that the ISS actually spun a full rotation and a half before crew members got it under control.

“The 45-degree number was initially offered in the first minutes after the event occurred by our guidance, navigation and control officer in Mission Control, but were later updated following an analysis of the actual divergence,” a NASA spokesperson told Space.com.

Slow and Steady

It’s easy to imagine the Hollywood version of the events, where the ISS is spinning so rapidly that panicked crew gets plastered against the walls as they try to regain control. But even with the incident being more dangerous than NASA first let on, the space agency says the ISS still rotated too slowly — about half a degree per second at its fastest — for any astronauts to physically feel the movement.

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The ISS “spun one-and-a-half revolutions — about 540 degrees — before coming to a stop upside down,” NASA flight director Zebulon Scoville, who led the ground effort during the incident, told the NYT. “The space station then did a 180-degree forward flip to get back to its original orientation.”

As a result, a sense of calm professionalism pervaded throughout, Scoville said.

“Probably the intensity goes up a little bit,” Scoville said. “But there’s a pervasive kind of calmness of people not panicking and just looking at the data, figuring out what was happening and try to solve the problem from there.”

However, Scoville did add that he had to declare a “spacecraft emergency” for the first time.

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READ MORE: Space station mishap with Russian module more serious than NASA first reported [Space.com]

More on the ISS incident: Crisis Briefly Spins International Space Station Out of Control


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