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CAPE CANAVERAL — NASA astronauts Yasmine Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara celebrated their first spacewalk this month with a tool bag left floating in space.
The duo completed maintenance work outside the International Space Station in six hours and 42 minutes, according to the space agency.
The November 1 spacewalk saw Moghbeli and O’Hara complete work on the station’s solar panels, which track the sun, but they didn’t have enough time to remove and store the communications electronics box. The duo left this mission to a future spacewalk, and instead conducted an evaluation of how the mission could be accomplished.
During the hours-long mission, an instrument bag was found by them and “went missing,” and was discovered by flight controllers using the International Space Station’s external cameras, NASA said. Fortunately, tools were not required for the rest of their missions.
NASA said in its official blog: “Mission Control analyzed the path of the bag and determined that the risk of reconnecting with the station is low and that the crew on board and the space station are safe without any action required.”
How to see the tool bag from the ground
According to EarthSky, a website that tracks cosmic events, the kit is currently orbiting Earth before the International Space Station, and will likely be observed from Earth using telescopes over the next few months until it disintegrates in our planet’s atmosphere.
This is not the first time an astronaut has lost his gear in space. In 2008, Heidi Stefanyshyn’s Piper bag floated while she was cleaning and lubricating the gears on a broken rotary joint. A 2006 spacewalk saw astronauts Pierce Sellers and Michael Fossum lose a 14-inch spoon while testing a way to repair the space shuttle.
Space debris, such as these objects, is artificial material that orbits the Earth but is no longer functional. It can be anything from a small chip of paint to parts thrown away during rocket launches.
In September 2023, the European Space Agency estimated that 35,290 objects had been tracked and cataloged by various space observation networks, with the total mass of objects orbiting the Earth reaching more than 11,000 tons.
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