Astronaut Tool Bag Becomes Unexpected Satellite After ISS Spacewalk Slip-Up

Astronaut Tool Bag Becomes Unexpected Satellite After ISS Spacewalk Slip-Up

In space, misplacing a bag of tools is hard to recover from. A tiny mishap during a recent spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) has led to a new object in the night sky, with a tool bag now orbiting Earth ahead of the space station, temporarily taunting the astronauts who dropped it.

During a spacewalk on November 1, astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara were carrying out handy work outside the ISS when they accidentally let a tool bag float away where it could no longer be reached. The bag of tools, orbiting Earth at the same velocity of 17,500 miles per hour (28,000 kilometres per hour) as the ISS, is now circling the planet ahead of the orbital lab, according to EarthSky.

The orbital slip-up was tracked and catalogued as a +6th magnitude object that’s approximately one minute ahead of the space station. At +6th magnitude, the wayward tool bag is just slightly below the limit of visibility to the unaided eye, EarthSky revealed. But if you’re curious about the lost tools, you can probably view the bag with a pair of binoculars or a small telescope, depending on weather and ambient light conditions.


This isn’t the first time spacewalking astronauts have misplaced their tools while tethered to the outside of the space station. Most recently in 2009, an orbiting tool bag met its fiery demise in Earth’s atmosphere after floating away from NASA astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper nearly 9 months earlier.

The tool bag likely doesn’t pose a threat to the orbiting space station, but a growing amount of space junk in Earth orbit increases the risk of it bumping into spacecraft and causing some damage.

The orbiting tools will likely remain in orbit for a few months before losing altitude and disintegrating in Earth’s atmosphere. But for now, it haunts the pair of spacewalking astronauts who lost it.

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