From left to right, members of Crew-3, NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron wave to media and family as they prepare for launch to the International Space Station on Wednesday. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 15 (UPI) -- The United States on Monday called a Russian anti-satellite missile test "reckless" and "irresponsible" after debris from the test endangered astronauts working aboard the International Space Station.
The seven astronauts were forced to take shelter in their space capsules as a cloud of space junk moved toward the station at high speeds.
While the debris eventually moved away from the station, NASA's mission control in Houston advised the astronauts to seek refuge to avoid a collision that might require them to return to Earth.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed the debris came from fragments of a Russian satellite that was broken into thousands of pieces when an ASAT test was "recklessly conducted" by Moscow earlier in the day.
"This test has so far generated over 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and will likely generate hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris," he said. "The long-lived debris created by this dangerous and irresponsible test will now threaten satellites and other space objects that are vital to all nations' security, economic, and scientific interests for decades to come."
Monday's events, he added, "clearly demonstrate that Russia, despite its claims of opposing the weaponization of outer space, is willing to jeopardize the long-term sustainability of outer space and imperil the exploration and use of outer space by all nations through its reckless and irresponsible behavior."
American astronauts Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron and Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency sheltered in their Crew Dragon spacecraft, while Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov, Pyotr Dubrov and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei sheltered in the Soyuz capsule.
Marshburn, Chari, Maurer and Barron entered the space station Thursday, arriving on a SpaceX Crew Dragon.
NASA also blasted the Russian ASAT test, calling it an "irresponsible and destabilizing action."
"With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS, but also their own cosmonauts," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
"Their actions are reckless and dangerous, threatening as well the Chinese space station and the taikonauts on board," he added. "All nations have a responsibility to prevent the purposeful creation of space debris from ASATs and to foster a safe, sustainable space environment."
The leader of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, will meet Tuesday with NASA representatives who have arrived in Moscow to discuss the ASAT test and other topics, the Russian news agency TASS reported.
Last year, members of NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel warned that space debris should be a top priority and called for the agency to move faster on a plan to better track and mitigate the dangers it poses.
Debris orbits at thousands of mph, and even tiny pieces of space trash can puncture spacecraft.
"I cannot emphasize the importance of this issue enough, and we really need some action taken now," panel chairwoman Patricia Sanders said.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches NASA's third crew to the International Space Station at 9:03 p.m. November 10 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo