Emsworth native Mike Fincke and two fellow crew members aboard the International Space Station almost abandoned ship Thursday afternoon.
A piece of space debris came close enough to the station that the astronauts climbed into the escape capsule from 12:35 to 12:45 p.m., said Kyle Herring, a NASA spokesman in Houston.
The space junk measured 1/3 of an inch wide, Herring said, and is part of a motor once used to boost a satellite into higher orbit. The debris passed within three miles of the station, coming closest about 12:39 p.m., Herring said.
A collision could have wiped out the station's air pressure and killed Cmdr. Fincke, 41, an Air Force colonel, and the crew.
"We've done this before," Herring said about having the astronauts enter the Russian Soyuz escape capsule for safety reasons.
He said they did so as a precaution, but could not say the last time that space-station astronauts climbed into Soyuz because of danger.
Fincke's father, Ed Fincke, 66, of Emsworth said he wasn't "overly upset" about the incident after learning what happened.
"I'm an engineer. When equipment's coming your way, you step out of the way," said Fincke, field engineer for Michael Baker Corp. …