Crew members on the orbiting laboratory have just survived space junk passing perilously close to their home. The astronauts were told to shelter in the Soyuz spacecraft in order to evacuate if required during the incident dubbed an “avoidance manoeuvre” by .

NASA experts on the ground were able to manoeuvre the ISS away from the potentially catastrophic collision with a piece of space debris yesterday at 10.19pm BST (5.19pm ET).

This was achieved by firing thrusters on a Progress cargo spacecraft.

This capsule is connected to the International Space Station’s Zvezda service module.

Three astronauts live on the ISS at the moment — NASA’s Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

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Those aboard the ISS event were only required to shelter in the Soyuz for a short time.

Although nobody was harmed in the incident, it highlights growing concerns about the space junk.

Experts estimate there may be as much as 129 million pieces of debris in orbit around Earth at any one time.

The European Space Agency (ESA) estimates more than 30,000 of these are more than 4 inches (1cm) in diameter.

This is not the first time such emergency manoeuvres need to the made.

The orbiting space station has made three similar moves this year alone,

This was acknowledged by Mr Bridenstine, who wrote in another tweet, “debris is getting worse!”

The most notorious event occurred in 2012, when NASA scrambled to move the ISS to avoid a potential collision with space debris created by a Chinese anti-satellite test.

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