Pentagon backs India on Mission Shakti, says ASAT debris expected to burn up in atmosphere

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Days after space agency NASA termed India’s recent destruction of one of its satellites under Mission Shakti a ‘terrible thing’, the Pentagon said on Thursday that it stood by its assessment that debris from an Indian anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons test would eventually burn up in the atmosphere.

The statement from the US Department of Defense, supporting India’s claim that the debris will destroy within six months, has come after the NASA’s administrator, Jim Bridenstine, warned of the danger the debris posed.

The NASA Administrator on Monday termed India’s recent destruction of one of its satellites under Mission Shakti a ‘terrible thing’ and claimed that it had created 400 pieces of orbital debris and has put astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in jeopardy.

ALSO READ: Mission Shakti a ‘terrible’ thing: NASA

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on March 28 played down the threat the debris might pose to satellites in space and said it was his understanding the debris would eventually burn up in the atmosphere. Bridenstine’s assessment contrasted sharply with the one offered by Shanahan.

When spokesman Charlie Summers was asked on Thursday whether the Pentagon stood by Shanahan’s earlier assessment, he  said, “Yes.”

The White House struck a cautious tone on Thursday, saying it was aware of Indian government statements about its efforts to mitigate debris hazards.

“We will continue to closely monitor the remaining debris from India’s ASAT test to ensure the safety of assets on-orbit and human spaceflight activities such as the International Space Station,” said Garrett Marquis, a National Security Council spokesman.

India test-fired an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile on March 27 under Mission Shakti. The targeted satellite was destroyed at a relatively low altitude of 300 kilometres, well below the ISS and most satellites in orbit.

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