Lost in Space: Astronauts Drop Tool Bag During ISS Spacewalk, Visible with Binoculars

Lost in Space: Astronauts Drop Tool Bag During ISS Spacewalk, Visible with Binoculars

In the celestial realm, a conspicuously luminous tool bag has become an unexpected point of interest for skywatchers.

This bright bag of tools slipped from the grasp of NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O'Hara during their spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) on November 2, 2023. Presently, the tool bag orbits Earth just ahead of the ISS, boasting a visual magnitude of approximately 6, slightly dimmer than the ice giant Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun. While the bag is not discernible to the naked eye due to its relatively faint brightness, observers equipped with binoculars should be able to spot it.

To catch a glimpse, enthusiasts can consult NASA's new app to determine when the ISS will be visible in the coming months, with the tool bag floating two to four minutes ahead of the station. Anticipated to descend rapidly, the bag is expected to reach an altitude of around 70 miles (113 kilometers) over Earth, potentially disintegrating upon descent.

Tool Bag's Great Escape: ESA Astronaut Shares Spacewalk Mishap on Social Media

ESA reserve astronaut Meganne Christian recently posted footage on her X account capturing the moment NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli lost control of a tool bag during a spacewalk. Christian mentioned that the last sighting of the drifting bag was reported by Crew-7 astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, who observed it floating above Mount Fuji.

On the same platform, Harvard Center for Astrophysics (CfA) astronomer Jonathan McDowell disclosed additional details, noting that the tool bag is currently navigating Earth's orbit in a roughly 258 by 258-mile trajectory. McDowell also revealed its specific designation in the U.S. Space Force cataloging system: 58229 / 1998–067WC.

In the realm of space news, this incident adds the tool bag to the extensive collection of artificial space debris encircling Earth, ranging from shuttle fragments to defunct satellites and astronaut tools. Interestingly, this isn't the first time a tool bag has found its way into orbit; a similar incident occurred in 2008 when NASA astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper lost another tool bag during a spacewalk.

Highlighting the eccentricities of items in Earth's orbit, the mention of a humble spatula steals the spotlight. In 2006, the late NASA astronaut Piers Sellers inadvertently let go of a spatula used for spreading heat-shield repair slime during the space shuttle Discovery's flight STS-121. Sellers humorously remarked, "That was my favorite spatula. Don't tell the other spatulas," acknowledging the unexpected journey of kitchen implements beyond Earth's atmosphere.

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