Two NASA astronauts, Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara, recently completed their first spacewalk, but it didn’t go completely as planned. During the six-hour and 42-minute mission, the duo performed maintenance work on the International Space Station’s solar arrays. However, they ran out of time to remove and stow a communications electronics box, leaving it for a future spacewalk.
One of the most notable aspects of this spacewalk was the accidental loss of a tool bag. As the astronauts were working, the bag slipped away and began floating in space. Luckily, the bag did not contain any tools necessary for their remaining tasks, and NASA determined that the risk of it recontacting the station was low.
The incident was captured by the International Space Station’s external cameras, allowing NASA to confirm the whereabouts of the floating tool bag. According to reports from EarthSky, the bag is currently in orbit around Earth, ahead of the space station. It may even be visible with binoculars until it eventually disintegrates in the atmosphere.
Losing tools in space is not a new phenomenon. Similar incidents have occurred in the past, with incidents in 2008 and 2006. These lost tools contribute to the growing problem of space debris. Space debris refers to artificial materials that orbit Earth but are no longer functional. The European Space Agency tracks and catalogs over 35,000 objects in space, with a total mass exceeding 11,000 tons.
Although losing a tool bag is not ideal, NASA has assured the public that it will not pose a significant threat to the International Space Station or any future missions. The focus now is on future spacewalks to retrieve the lost communications electronics box and prioritize the removal of other debris in space.
As space exploration continues to grow and evolve, the management of space debris becomes increasingly important. With more objects being launched into space each year, it is crucial to address the issue to ensure the safety and sustainability of future space missions.