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International Space Station astronauts seek shelter from rocket chunk

This Feb. 16, 2001 file photo provided by NASA, shows the International Space Station as it orbits the Earth. A discarded chunk of a Russian rocket is forcing six space station astronauts to seek shelter in escape capsules early Saturday, March 24, 2012.

NASA/AP/NASA/AP

A discarded chunk of a Russian rocket missed the International Space Station early Saturday. However, it came close enough to force six astronauts to seek shelter in escape capsules.

NASA says the space junk was barely close enough to be a threat. Had it hit, however, the station could have been dangerous. So the astronauts — two Americans, three Russians and a Dutchman — woke early and went into two Soyuz vehicles ready to rocket back to Earth just in case.

The debris came closest at 2:38 a.m. EDT. It wasn't noticed until Friday, too late to move the International Space Station out of the way.

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This is the third time in 12 years that astronauts have had to seek shelter from space junk.

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