During the various servicing missions astronauts noticed tiny dimples and dents in the radiator – results of impacts from space debris. After over 15 years of exposure to space, this surface became a record of the accumulation of such debris in low earth orbit. Naturally, NASA wanted to evaluate the amount and nature of this debris, and so after the camera was returned to earth the impact sites were cored out for analysis. The core samples are far larger than the original debris, because the splatter pattern of these impacts was far larger than the original debris particles themselves. The largest core samples left holes about 30 mm in diameter, but the debris particles were less than a mm in size. The analysis is ongoing.
Image Number: WEB13924-2014
Credit: Image by Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution
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