A toolbag has begun its orbit of earth after being “inadvertently” released during a rare space mission on the International Space Station (ISS) – and the floating object can be seen from earth.
Nasa astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Lorel O’Hara were making repairs on their first spacewalk, with the aim of improving the station’s solar arrays to track the sun continuously, reports the Guardian.
A Nasa blog said that “one tool bag was inadvertently lost”, noting that “external station cameras” had spotted the escaping bag.
Luckily, the contents of the bag were “not needed for the remainder of the spacewalk”.
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The astronauts don’t need to worry that the bag will smash into the station though, as “risk of recontacting with the station is low”, with Nasa adding: “onboard crew and [the] space station are safe with no action required”.
Observers on earth can spot the white, satchel-like bag, which is very bright, via binocular – it is only just below the visibility limit to the naked eye.
Slightly less bright than Uranus, the bag will be orbiting Earth about two to four minutes ahead of the ISS, according to Nasa’s Spot the Station tool.
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The gear is expected to orbit for a few months before gradually dropping into the atmosphere where it will quickly burn up – preliminary estimates put this at March 2024.
This isn’t the first time a toolbag has been lost in space – Heidemarie Stafenyshyn-Piper saw hers drift off during a 2008 mission. That event was a bit more disruptive than this, as mission controllers changed plans for the remainder of the space shuttle Endeavor’s mission.
Meanwhile, two years earlier in 2006, Piers Sellers lost his “favourite” spatula to the darkness as he was testing a heat shield repair technique.
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