MOSCOW — Russian officials on Tuesday rejected accusations that they endangered astronauts aboard the International Space Station by conducting a weapons test that created more than 1,500 pieces of space junk but a White House official said the move by Russia would threaten activities in space “for years to come.”
U.S. officials on Monday accused Russia of destroying an old satellite with a missile in what they called a reckless and irresponsible strike. They said the debris could damage the space station, an assessment backed by NATO’s chief.
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 higher than the space station.
The test clearly demonstrates that Russia, “despite its claims of opposing the weaponization of outer space, is willing to … imperil the exploration and use of outer space by all nations through its reckless and irresponsible behavior,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said Tuesday that Russia’s action demonstrated its “complete disregard for the security, safety, stability and long-term sustainability of the space domain for all nations.”
He said the United States would work with its allies “as we seek to respond to this irresponsible act.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry on Tuesday 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.”