12:29am

Sat March 24, 2012
Space

Debris Makes Space Station Astronauts Hunker Down

A discarded chunk of a Russian rocket forced six space station astronauts to seek shelter in escape capsules early Saturday, then ultimately safely passed in front of the space station, according to NASA.

NASA spokesman Rob Navias told The Associated Press ahead of the incident that the space junk would barely be close enough to be a threat. But if it had hit the station, it could have been dangerous, so the astronauts — two Americans, three Russians and a Dutchman — woke early and climbed into two Soyuz vehicles ready to rocket back to Earth just in case.

The debris came closest at 2:38 a.m. EDT. It was not noticed until Friday, too late to move the International Space Station out of the way.

This is the third time in 12 years that astronauts have had to seek shelter from space junk.

This report contains material from The Associated Press

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