NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara recently made headlines as they successfully completed their first spacewalk on November 1. The astronauts were tasked with working on the International Space Station’s (ISS) solar arrays, but unfortunately ran out of time to remove and stow a communications electronics box.
However, the spacewalk took an unexpected turn when a tool bag floated away from the astronauts, becoming lost in space. While this may seem like a significant setback, flight controllers were able to locate the tool bag using the ISS’ external cameras. Luckily, NASA has reassured that there is a low risk of the bag recontacting the space station.
Interestingly, the lost tool bag is actually visible from Earth with a pair of binoculars as it orbits ahead of the ISS until it ultimately disintegrates in the Earth’s atmosphere. This serves as a rare opportunity for space enthusiasts to catch a glimpse of an object floating in space.
It’s worth noting that losing tools in space is not an uncommon occurrence. In fact, similar incidents have been reported in 2008 and 2006. These lost tools, like the tool bag, become part of the growing collection of space debris or junk orbiting our planet. The European Space Agency estimated in September 2023 that there are over 35,000 tracked objects in orbit around Earth, with a total mass exceeding 11,000 tons.
Although the tool bag may seem insignificant in comparison to the vastness of space, it highlights the issue of space debris and the need for better measures to ensure the safe and sustainable use of outer space. With the increasing number of objects orbiting Earth, efforts are being made to track and monitor debris to prevent potential collisions with operational satellites and the ISS.
As NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara made history with their first spacewalk, the unfortunate loss of the tool bag serves as a reminder of the challenges faced in the realm of space exploration. As technology continues to propel us further into the cosmos, it will be crucial to address the issue of space debris to ensure the longevity and safety of future missions.
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