This Crack in the Glass is the Last Thing You Want to See When Looking Out the ISS Window

By Attila Nagy on at

This quarter-inch diameter chip was photographed by British astronaut Tim Peake from inside the Cupola module of International Space Station. Alarmingly, it’s actually in one of the windows.

Caused by a space debris impact, it’s not a big crack nor could it do any harm to the multi layered station window—but it’s still not a nice thing to see when you’re in orbit. It was probably caused by “a paint flake or a small metal fragment no bigger than a few thousandths of a millimetre across”, according to the European Space Agency.

It’s amazing that one tiny speck of debris you cannot even notice on Earth can do such damage at orbital speeds. This also indicates that space debris threat is something that cannot be ignored in space exploration. ESA emphasises:

While a chip like the one shown here may be minor, larger debris would pose a serious threat. An object up to 1 cm in size could disable an instrument or a critical flight system on a satellite. Anything above 1 cm could penetrate the shields of the Station’s crew modules, and anything larger than 10 cm could shatter a satellite or spacecraft into pieces.