By Patrik Jonsson
The Christian Science Monitor
Some 22,000 chunks of space junk zip around the earth. On Saturday, six International Space Station astronauts scrambled for safety as a piece of a Russian satellite whizzed by.The six earthlings – three Russians, two Americans, and a Dutchman – aboard the International Space Station were stirred from their slumber Saturday morning to jump into emergency escape pods, once again drawing into focus the growing dangers of hurtling space junk.
The astronauts, orbiting 200 miles above the planet, were told by ground control to scramble into two docked Soyuz spacecrafts in case a piece of a wrecked Russian satellite should smash into the ISS, which could have heavily damaged the platform as both objects were traveling at orbital speeds – 17,500 miles per hour. The emergency was called off after the chunk passed by at an approximate distance of nine miles – which in space terms is a near-miss.