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Griffin Assesses Danger of Debris In Space, Gives Odds Of Crew Deaths

By | August 13, 2007

      NASA Administrator Michael Griffin assessed the odds of space debris crippling spacecraft and killing astronauts, giving numerical substance to the fact that space travel is unsafe.

      “Our average chance of dying by space debris on orbit in the [International Space Station (ISS)] is about one in 100,000 per day,” Griffin said in response to questioning at a media briefing.

      That means that “if you stay up there long enough, it’s going to be a problem,” he said.

      “So we look at debris mitigation on the station with various kinds of shielding materials,” he said, noting that he possesses expertise in that area.

      “It’s one in a few hundred is the mission risk for a shuttle due to debris, and it has hung in around that number for quite some time,” he said.

      “That’s big enough that we do pay very careful attention to mitigating debris, not generating any more, and we do work to that goal with other space agencies around the world. Every spacefaring nation now understands the importance of mitigating space debris.”

      Griffin gave an upbeat outlook, saying he thinks the problem will lessen.

      “I believe it will be less of a problem as time goes by, as people continue to pursue cleanliness measures and as the atmosphere sweeps out existing debris,” he said.

      While it is a threat, Griffin wished to place it in perspective and not blow it out of proportion.

      “It is a hazard,” he said. “It’s not the worst hazard with which we have to deal in space flight.”

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