VIDEO: Revealed – how NASA avoided a mid-space collision with a Russian spy satellite

Scientists at NASA have revealed how one of their spacecraft came within a few hundred feet of a catastrophic collision with a defunct Soviet-era spy satellite last month.

The NASA craft, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, was on the same trajectory as Cosmos 1805 – and the two craft were closing at a combined speed of 27,000 miles per hour. On the morning of March 29 this year, NASA scientist Julie McEnery received an email warning her of the approaching collision, which would have resulted in an explosion releasing the equivalent of energy from two and a half tons of high explosive.

“My immediate reaction was, ‘Whoa, this is different from anything we’ve seen before!’” McEnery recalled at nasa.gov.

Calculations showed that on April 4 the craft would, with luck, pass within 700 feet of each other and for 30 milliseconds, they’d occupy precisely the same area of space. Despite there being lots of satellites and other space junk orbiting the earth, spacecraft usually do not get anywhere near as close to each other.

Scientists learned to their cost in 2009 that they had to treat near approaches with extreme caution, after another defunct Russian satellite, Cosmos 2251 smashed into a communications satellite, Iridium 33. NASA only realized that their worst fears had come true when they started to track clouds of debris floating away from the collision site. It was the first recorded satellite to satellite collision.

In what NASA described as the equivalent of orbital air traffic control, McEnery and colleagues fired Fermi’s thrusters to take the craft out of harm’s way. The telescope maps the highest-energy light in the universe.

“A huge weight was lifted,” McEnery said. “I felt like I’d lost 20 pounds.”

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Healthcare union creates vibrant West Indian Day Parade…

Volunteers worked almost around the clock through the weekend, putting the flashy finishing touches on hundreds of costume pieces 1199SEIU members will wear while marching…

National

Top 10 most hipster college campuses

Hipsters are everywhere these days. You can't walk down the anywhere anymore without seeing a pair of skinny jeans on a handlebar mustachioed 20-something, a…

National

Detained Americans in North Korea seek U.S. help

Three US citizens detained in North Korea appealed to the U.S government for help returning home, speaking in rare interviews.

National

New Apple iPhone to have 'mobile wallet' function:…

(Reuters) - Apple Inc plans to enable its next iPhone to become a mobile wallet by allowing owners to securely make mobile payments in a…

Entertainment

Where to place the blame in a nude…

When a celebrity's private photos are leaked online, it's easy to jump to the conclusion that they only have themselves to blame, since they took…

Gossip

Security expert weighs in on 'The Fappening' and…

We speak to Rik Ferguson, vice president of security firm Security Research at Trend Micro, about the hundreds of hacked celebrity photos that leaked.

Gossip

Who is Ashlee Simpson’s new husband anyway?

Find out five things about Ashlee Simpson's new husband, Evan Ross.

Entertainment

Jennifer Lawrence and more: The big names on…

The names of more than 100 famous actresses, musicians and athletes were included in a list of purported hacking victims, nude photos of whom were…

NFL

Odell Beckham still 'weeks away,' Tom Coughlin angry…

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has fought a losing battle against the media all preseason over the status of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

Travel

10 free apps to make traveling easier

Finding the nearest bathroom, calculating currency exchanges and locating your departure gate must have been difficult for travelers of previous generations. But we wouldn't know,…

Travel

How to get a seat upgrade to business…

It used to be much easier to upgrade your coach seat to business or even first class, but rigid rules and tighter schedules have made…

Career

The number of telecommuters is expected to nearly…

Until a few years ago, telecommuting was not considered a realistic option at most companies. But with technological advances like high-speed Internet and smartphones, more…

Wellbeing

Your new food ally to ward off type…

For people who may be headed for type 2 diabetes, regularly eating pistachios might help turn the tide, according to a small nutrition trial from…