A robotic arm located outside of the International Space Station has been hit by orbital debris.The impact punched a hole in the arm boom and its thermal blanket. The agency said the hole appears to measure roughly 0.2 inches across. The exact object responsible for this damage is unknown. The nearly 60-foot robotic appendage remains functional. About 23,000 objects about the size of a softball or larger are constantly tracked by space agencies to ensure that they don’t collide with satellites or the space station. These bits of debris fly through orbit at up to 18,000 miles per hour. Tiny objects can’t be tracked. There are estimated to be over 128 million pieces of debris smaller than 1 cm (0.39 in) as of January 2019.”The safety of astronauts on board the orbiting laboratory remains the top priority of all Station partners,” NASA said.
Over the course of the space station’s history, NASA has had to perform at least 26 special maneuvers to dodge orbital debris that passed too close to the orbiting outpost. Below 2,000 km (1,200 mi) Earth-altitude, pieces of debris are denser than meteoroids. Astronauts are still exposed to some of the dangers of life in the space environment , like orbital debris. Experts have said the problem is magnified by society’s dependence on satellite systems for telecommunications, GPS and other everyday conveniences. In the 2009 European Air and Space Conference, University of Southampton researcher Hugh Lewis predicted that the threat from space debris would rise 50 percent in the next decade and quadruple in the next 50 years.