Space junk chips window on International Space Station

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Don’t you hate it when you’re driving along and a piece of debris comes out of nowhere and puts a chip in your windshield?

Well, what if you’re traveling over 17,000 miles per hour, and that chipped windshield is the only thing keeping you from instant death by decompression?

That’s the reality for the crew of the International Space Station, where a piece of space debris put a disconcerting gash in one of the station’s windows in April.

European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake tweeted a photo of an impact on one of the windows of the cupola, a module that provides some of the station’s best views.

IN SPACE - JULY 18: In this handout image provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), NASA astronaut Sandy Magnus, STS-135 mission specialist, gets one last visit to the Cupola onboard the International Space Station before the two spacecraft undocked July 18, 2011 in space. Space shuttle Atlantis is on the last leg of a 12-day mission to the International Space Station where it delivered the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module packed with supplies and spare parts. This was the final mission of the space shuttle program, which began on April 12, 1981 with the launch of Colombia. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images)

The cupola is a multi-windowed module on the International Space Station. Photo by NASA via Getty Images

The issue of floating space junk orbiting the earth is becoming an ever-growing problem for the International Space Station. Nearly every time a rocket is launched into space, it jettisons pieces of equipment in the launch. Those pieces then orbit the planet, until they eventually drift back into the atmosphere and burn up.

But the junk is sent up faster than it’s being destroyed.

A researcher made a video illustrating the growth of space junk in just under 60 years of space travel.

Thankfully, the windows are built to withstand not just the vacuum of space, but also impact from such debris.

NASA has a department devoted to monitoring junk that could hit the station. When they detect a collision course, NASA instructs the crew to plot a maneuver to evade the trajectory.

Fortunately, space has a lot of, well, space. It’s not exactly a thick cluster of trash that the station is barreling through, like some kind of hail storm in space, but it is a safety threat the crew must be aware of.

In 2007, the Chinese launched a missile at a defunct weather satellite, sending more than 3,000 pieces of debris into space, according to NASA.

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