Partly, this is a test.
I once published a post about what it must have been like for the Challenger Astronauts to know they were gonna die as they fell to the ocean's surface after the explosion. An almost immediate commenter was a NASA employee.
So NASA is keeping an ear out, paying attention to blogs...... good for them!
It seems to me that some time back, one of the shuttles came home with a cracked windshield. Upon investigation, they found that the shuttle had collided, at 17,000 miles per hour, with a paint chip.
Makes sense to me....... traveling at almost 5 miles per second, hit something with even the slightest mass, and it's gonna hurt.
The shuttle detached itself yesterday from the International Space Station after delivering supplies and doing some extra-vehicular activity, (work on the ISS). Apparently, while doing the work, Bolts/Nuts/Washers escaped the grasp of the Astronauts and floated off on their own to encounter life somewhere in the reaches of outer space. They obviously weigh more than a chip of paint.
If any space vehicle should encounter one of those things later, it could go through the craft faster than a knife through room-temperature butter.
Space is a big place, thank God. But how long can we go on allowing stuff like this to happen?
What steps are we taking to protect the Shuttle and other Spacecraft from this potential disaster?
I know it's unintentional. I know it's hard to work in that environment, and humans make mistakes. But the potential for catastrophe gets greater and greater with each piece of debris that gets away. At some point, I can foresee trash making Space a prohibitively dangerous place to explore.