6 station astronauts take shelter from space junk

June 28, 2011 - 8:29 AM

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The six space station astronauts are safe after a close call with a piece of space junk.

Mission Control ordered the crew of the International Space Station into their Soyuz capsules Tuesday morning. Controllers wanted to keep them safe from a piece of orbiting debris. The unidentified object was predicted to pass within 800 or so feet.

The call to seek shelter came around 7:30 a.m. EDT. The time of closest approach was a little after 8 a.m. Mission Control gave the all-clear a few minutes later. The two Americans, three Russians and one Japanese astronaut returned to the station.

Even a small piece of junk can do big damage. The astronauts could have undocked in their two Soyuz capsules and returned to Earth, in case of a serious collision.