WASHINGTON — A piece of space debris not much wider than a millimeter has smashed a hole through an important part of the International Space Station.
Here are the details: Science Alert reports that a piece of space debris has hit and damaged part of the International Space Station.
Photos released by NASA shows a small hole that had been punched through the station's Canadarm2 robotic arm.
The arm has been a fixture on the ISS for twenty years.
It's a multi-jointed titanium robotic arm that can assist with maneuvering objects outside the ISS.
It's unclear exactly when the impact occurred.
The damage was first noticed on 12 May, during a routine inspection.
NASA says the robotic arm seems to be working normally, despite the damage.
The space debris problem does seem to be increasing.
Last year, the ISS had to perform emergency maneuvers three times to avoid collisions with space debris at its altitude of around 400 kilometers.
An estimated 130 million fragments of man-made material smaller than a millimeter are orbiting Earth right now.
Over 23,000 pieces bigger than a softball are being tracked in low-Earth orbit to help satellites and the ISS avoid collisions, but the millions of smaller fragments are too small to be tracked.
Earth's superpowers have added to this space debris by blowing up satellites with missiles in the past.
The latest to do so was China, who blew up one of its orbiting satellites in 2007, adding more than two million pieces of scrap larger than a millimeter in size.
In Earth's orbit, small fragments like that can travel at speeds of around 32,000 kilometers per hour, each with the potential to cause more damage than a shell fired from a tank.