India’s missile test sent dangerous space trash hurling near ISS: NASA chief

Brett Molina
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said India's test of an anti-satellite weapon was a 'terrible thing,' creating debris posing a risk to the ISS.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine called India's test of an anti-satellite weapon a "terrible thing," creating debris that could threaten the International Space Station.

During an agencywide town hall at NASA headquarters on Monday, Bridenstine said 400 pieces of orbital debris have been identified from the missile test conducted last week.

Bridenstine said as a result of the test, the risk of the International Space Station being hit by small debris increased by 44% over a period of 10 days.

"That is a terrible, terrible thing to create an event that sends debris in an apogee that goes above the International Space Station," Bridenstine said. "That kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight we need to see have happen."

Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the country successfully test-fired its anti-satellite weapon. 

According to a statement from India's Ministry of External Affairs, the test was done in Earth's lower atmosphere to ensure there is no space debris. "Whatever debris that is generated will decay and fall back onto the earth within weeks," said the agency.

Bridenstine said NASA is tracking 60 pieces of debris left behind as a result of the missile test.

NASA Administrator James Bridenstine testifies during a hearing before the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee March 27, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Earlier this month, Bridenstine praised its agency's 2020 fiscal budget set by President Donald Trump, with plans to use the agency's $21 billion budget to return to the moon in the next decade.

"We will use what we learn as we move forward to the Moon to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars," Bridenstine said in a statement.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: India’s missile test sent dangerous space trash hurling near ISS: NASA chief