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Science

Astronaut Michael Foale: 'I Thought To Myself, This Is It, I'm Going To Die'

Astronaut Michael Foale relates an incident on the International Space Station in 1997 when it was hit by a resupply ship attempting to dock.

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"But after a first second or two I looked around and I realized that no the walls hadn't parted and instead my ears started to pop and so then that confirmed for me that it had hit badly enough to knock a hole in the ship."

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Photo Credits : (GettyImages)
Getty Images Chris Jackson NASA
TRANSCRIPT This transcript was generated by AudioBurst technologies

Lets talk about 1997, Astronaut Michael Foale here on the Kevin and Bean Show the show is called Secrets Spacescapes tomorrow night on the science channel. What happened? You are on board the Russian Mir Station and a resupply vessel is coming towards you and that is fairly common fairly typical up there right? Well that is typically but it always automated and they always do it with a radar turned on basically we call it a transponder that tells, tells the machine because it is all robotic how fast its going and how fast far away its going and it slowly reduces the speed as it comes into the docking. What they were doing that time was trying to save money and the Russians are trying not to buy a radar that was made in the Ukraine, trying to save like two million bucks and so they made the crew that I was with on board the Mir fly this thing by remote control using the TV camera on the progress cargo ship which weighs seven tons to fly it into the Mir, but they did that not from the distance the crew normally trained at which is just about 100 meters 100 yards they did it from six kilometers away which is and they gave them a case where the thing was going probably twenty percent, thirty percent faster than it should have been. So the crew unfortunately didn't recognize how fast it was coming in until it was too late to stop. - And what happened when it hit the Mir? - When it hit the Mir I was floating through to the emergency to a lifeboat spacecraft called Sois because I was told we might need it and as it hit the whole space station kind of shuttered I heard kind of a dull thud, but because I was floating, passing through to the lifeboat I didn't actually feel anything I just saw it all move around me almost three four seconds after that I kind thought to myself well maybe this is it, I was going to die but I tried to breath out like a diver does when you think your air is going to come out of your lungs so your lungs don't pop, but that wasn't going to do any good because I would still die from asphyxiation, but then. - This is the worst story ever.  - But after a first second or two I looked around and I realized that no the walls hadn't parted and instead my ears started to pop and so then that confirmed for me that it had it badly enough to knock a hole in the ship and it had knocked a hole actually in the module which I had been keeping all my stuff in, where I have been sleeping called Spectra and it cracked it put a hole roughly equivalent of about an inch in there so the air started to leave the space station really fast, but not like howling air it was just kind of a whistle and your ears were popping and we had about 20 minutes or so of what we call reserve time where there would be enough air before we went unconscious so we had 20 minutes to basically deal with the situation.