Life is back to normal for the seven astronauts working on the International Space Station – or at least as usual as living in space can be -- after a Russian test created a giant debris cloud potentially endangering the crew.
The American, European and Russian astronauts received an early wake-up call Monday. Mission control told the crew to prepare for "safe haven procedures" after Russia intentionally destroyed one of its satellites during an Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test, creating approximately 1,500 pieces of space junk.
According to NASA, even the smallest piece of space debris can be dangerous for spacecraft because the objects are moving at approximately 15,700 mph. A direct hit could mean a leak on the ISS or worse.
The International Space Station orbits the Earth every 90 minutes and, when doing so, would potentially pass through the debris cloud. As a result, the astronauts closed some hatches on the station and were ready in the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.
"If orbital debris were to strike the station and cause an air leak, the crew would close hatches to the affected module," NASA said in a blog post. "If crew members do not have time to close the affected module, they would enter their respective spacecraft and, if necessary, undock from the space station to return to Earth."
The astronauts waited in Dragon for about two hours Monday. The following day mission control continued to provide updates about every 90 minutes on the debris cloud.
NASA provided an update Wednesday night saying the crew are safe and have resumed their regular duties in space. The astronauts reopened the radial hatches into the station's center Wednesday around 1:20 p.m.
Although the ISS can maneuver to avoid a debris hit, NASA said no debris avoidance maneuver was performed.
The new debris cloud created by Russia has increased the risk to the ISS, according to the space agency.
It remains unclear what this means for the ongoing science and other events planned for the Expedition 66 crew.
"Teams are assessing the risk levels to conduct various mission activities," according to "NASA. "Any changes to launches, spacewalks and other events will be updated as needed."
NASA astronauts Kayla Barron and Tom Marshburn are preparing for a spacewalk to swap out an antenna system on the ISS.
The four Crew-3 astronauts arrived last week after launching from Kennedy Space Center in SpaceX's Dragon Endurance capsule. NASA Astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov were there to welcome the new residents.
Marshburn, Barron, NASA astronaut Raja Chari and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer are scheduled to stay on station until April 2022.
Vande Hei is in the middle of spending nearly a year in space. He'll return to Earth in March after 353 days on station, a new record for an American astronaut.