Austin criticizes Russia for missile strike in space


WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Wednesday issued a stark warning to Russia after they allegedly destroyed a satellite and sent 1,500 large pieces of space debris hurtling toward the International Space Station.

Austin said Russia’s move creates a conflict in space and in the last few days, both the U.S. and its international allies — including NATO — have condemned Russia’s actions.

“What’s most troubling about that is the danger that it creates for the international community,” Austin said. “It undermines strategic stability, and as you know, there’s a debris field there now that’ll be there forever. And it’s a safety concern. And so we would call upon Russia to act more responsibly going forward.”

The State Department warned the missile test jeopardizes the long-term ability of nations to explore and deploy communication and other technologies in outer space.

Russian officials Tuesday rejected accusations that they endangered astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed carrying out a test and destroying a defunct satellite that has been in orbit since 1982, but insisted that “the U.S. knows for certain that the resulting fragments, in terms of test time and orbital parameters, did not and will not pose a threat to orbital stations, spacecraft and space activities.” It called remarks by U.S. officials “hypocritical.”

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the strike was carried out “with surgical precision” and posed no threat to the space station. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also charged that it is “hypocrisy” to say that Russia creates risks for peaceful activities in space.

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The Russian space agency Roscosmos wouldn’t confirm or deny that the strike took place, saying only that the “unconditional safety of the crew has been and remains our main priority.”

Even a fleck of paint can do major damage when orbiting at 17,500 mph (28,000 kph). Something big, upon impact, could be catastrophic to the space station.

Astronauts now face four times greater risk than normal from space junk, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told The Associated Press. The defunct Russian satellite Cosmos 1408 was orbiting about 40 miles (65 kilometers) higher than the space station.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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