The close encounter wasn't quite as bad as June's supply-ship bust-up, but it did send Mir's three-man crew scurrying into their escape capsule, where they remained until the satellite shot overhead at a hasty 17,500 miles per hour. Russian space officials said the satellite came within 500 yards of plowing into the cosmonaut's front room.
In a bizarre reversal of roles, NASA downplayed the near miss — and pointed out Mir had about 1,000 yards of headroom. "It wasn't anything major. This happens every month," said NASA spokesman John Lawrence. But the incident provided a reminder of the hazards of space traffic — where an object the size of a grain of sand can hit with the impact of a .38-caliber bullet.