The International Space Station (ISS) has averted a major tragedy in microgravity. The situation was far more serious than what the space agencies had reported.
The agencies had reported that the ISS had spun by 45 degrees, but a news report has suggested it was way more than that. According to the report, the flying outpost spun one-and-a-half revolutions -- about 540 degrees -- before coming to a stop upside down, relative to its original position.
The ISS located, some 250 miles above the Earth, was in the process of docking the Russian-made Nauka module to the space station when the jet thrusters fired unexpectedly. The space station spun by a record 540 degrees. However, the seven astronauts in the space station were never in danger despite the flips.
A tweet by NASA on July 29 read, “Following this morning's docking of the Nauka module to the @Space_Station, the module's thrusters started firing at 12.45 pm ET inadvertently and unexpectedly, moving the station 45 degrees out of attitude. Recovery operations have regained attitude and the crew is in no danger.”
A report by The New York Times on August 2 said Zebulon Scoville, flight director, in charge of NASA’s mission control centre in Houston, said the space station spun not by 45 degrees but by 540 degrees. The flying outpost space station spun a whole one-and-a-half revolutions before it came to a stop. Unfortunately, it stopped upside down from its original position. This mishap could have led to a major tragedy in microgravity, the report said.
And now NASA has tweeted, “Update: @space_station was 45° out of attitude when Nauka's thrusters were still firing & loss of control was discussed with the crew. Further analysis showed total attitude change before regaining normal attitude control was ~540°. Station is in good shape & operating normally.”
Interestingly, it was Scoville’s day off, yet he decided to view from the gallery as he was curious. He was asked to take over after the docking was over.
The New York Times reported Scoville as saying that NASA had received just two lines of code saying there was something wrong. The engineers, who had initially considered it to be a false message, swung to action by activating other additional antennas to talk to the station after declaring a spacecraft emergency.
The NASA’s incident report stated that the jet thrusters started firing, resulting in the entire station to pitch out of its normal flight position in orbit. The jet thrusters are from the new Nauka (Rocket in Russian) module that replaced the Pirs module. The Russian-made 23-tonne Nauka module is docked on the underside of the space station and NASA was finally able to restore the orientation by activating thrusters on another module docked on the Station.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)