A potentially dangerous situation happened on the International Space Station on Thursday. The Russian module Nauka misfired its thrusters after docking, pushing the space station out of its flight position. Ground controllers also lost communications with the seven astronauts onboard the ISS.
NASA officials declared a "spacecraft emergency" as the ISS lost its attitude (the angle at which the spacecraft is supposed to remain oriented) on Thursday morning. This happened because the Russian laboratory module called Nauka misfired its thrusters, according to CNN Business.
International Space Station Scary Accident
During the accident, the ISS was pushed out of its intended position for nearly an hour. Ground controllers struggled to reconnect with the seven astronauts on the ISS, which took around 11 minutes of the ordeal.
The head of NASA's International Space Station Program, Joel Montalbano, said that astronauts were never in danger. Montalbano also noted that accidental firings of thrusters have only happened three or four times during the 20 years that the space station stayed in orbit.
However, ground controllers requested the astronauts to look outside the windows and inspect for debris or damage on the station. NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos are also reportedly investigating the incident.
Unfortunately, this incident also delayed the Boeing Starliner unscrewed test flight for the station. No new schedule has been provided for the space capsule.
NASA officials were quick to downplay the incident, describing it as a "dynamic event" or "pretty exciting hour."
Associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, Kathy Leuders, said, "Spaceflight is hard, and when we bring on new capabilities there can be glitches, which is why we prepare and train for these contingencies."
Watch Undocking of Old Spacecraft
Despite the scary experience, astronauts continued their schedule of events. With the new addition of the Nauka, ISS got rid of its 20-year-old Russian module, Pirs, and sent it off to be burned up in the Earth's atmosphere.
Pirs Docking Compartment (DC-1) is one of the ISS' oldest Roscosmos modules. It was designed as an airlock for spacewalking astronauts and a docking port for incoming spacecraft, according to Cnet.
In detail, Pirs was first undocked from the ISS. Then, it started moving away from the station. In the next few hours, Pirs traveled at high speeds, re-entering Earth's atmosphere as a fireball streaking in the sky.
European Space Agency astronaut and ISS crew member Thomas Pesquet tweeted photos of this event. These four photos featured Pirs as it undocked, floated away, darkened from a distance, and burned up in the distant atmosphere.
So long DC1! After almost twenty years of service, instead of getting a medal 🥇, one of the @Space_Station's oldest @roscosmos modules got a little trip through the atmosphere. 🌠#MissionAlpha https://t.co/EP9154jL2k pic.twitter.com/8p7QI2UFDX— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) July 27, 2021
A photo of the non-combustible structural elements of Pirs module as it fell in a non-navigable area of the Pacific Ocean was also captured in a tweet by user РОСКОСМОС
The non-combustible structural elements of the #ProgressMS16 cargo ship and the #Pirs module fell in a non-navigable area of the Pacific Ocean.— РОСКОСМОС (@roscosmos) July 26, 2021
Thank you for your work, Progress and Pirs! pic.twitter.com/Cgb900lDNp
A complete video capture is uploaded on the Cnet YouTube channel.
Keep an eye out for more updates on Boeing's Starliner. Its postponed launching would probably be rescheduled sometime next month.