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ISS crew man the lifeboat

Space junk prompts retreat to Soyuz capsule

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The crew of the International Space Station were obliged to take refuge in the docked Russian Soyuz capsule this afternoon, as space junk passed within 250 metres of the orbiting outpost.

According to Interfax, a Russian space official described the temporary evacuation as "normal procedure" during a close encounter with debris. The source told the news agency: "The space junk was detected too late for a ducking manoeuvre."

If the ISS is seriously damaged in a collision, the crew can return to terra firma courtesy of the Soyuz "lifeboat". Their standing orders are to make for the capsule if there's even the slightest risk of an impact, something previous ISS residents did back in 2009 when the station was approached by a piece of satellite booster mechanism.

The ISS is currently occupied by commander Andrey Borisenko, Satoshi Furukawa, Mike Fossum, Ron Garan, Alexander Samokutyaev and Sergei Volkov, who form Expedition 28. ®

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