Windscreen chip ruins astronauts' view

The 7mm chip (Tim Peake/Twitter)
The 7mm chip (Tim Peake/Twitter)

It might be time for astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to give Novus a call.

There's a chip in the window of its Cupola module, where they chill out and marvel at the wonders of the cosmos.

The view's been ruined by a 7mm-wide crater made by "possibly a paint flake or small metal fragment no bigger than a few thousandths of a millimetre across", according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

It's doubtful their windscreen repair policy will cover it -- made of fused silica and borosilicate, the aluminium-lined, quadruple-glazed windows are also floating an inconvenient 400km above the ground.

"ESA is at the forefront of developing and implementing debris mitigation guidelines, because the best way to avoid problems from orbital debris is not to cause them in the first place," said Holger Krag, head of ESA's space debris office.

There are more than 20,000 pieces of space junk in orbit around Earth.

It's a far cry from the destruction seen in Hollywood blockbuster Gravity, but it wouldn't take much to seriously damage the ISS or a satellite.

Travelling at an orbital speed of up to 34,500km/h, a piece of space junk 1cm across could punch its way into the ISS. A 10cm-wide chunk could smash a satellite into even more space junk.

"The [ISS] is provided with extensive shielding around all vital crew and technical areas, so that minor strikes, like this one, pose no threat," the ESA said in a statement.