March 5, 2024

A tool bag lost by NASA astronauts during a spacewalk is now orbiting Earth and is surprisingly visible to those on the ground who may want to catch a glimpse of it.

NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara were conducting a spacewalk from the International Space Station (ISS) last month when a tool bag slipped away and drifted away from the station, according to a report from Earth Sky.

The tool bag, which is valued at about $100,000, is now orbiting Earth just ahead of the space station and is so bright that stargazers can catch a glimpse of the runaway gear using just binoculars. Those hoping to catch a glimpse of the bag should locate the ISS, then scan the sky just ahead of its trajectory, the report notes.


Astronaut on spacewalk

In this handout photo provided by NASA, Astronaut Rick Mastracchio, STS-118 mission specialist, participates in the mission’s third planned session of extravehicular activity as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. (NASA via Getty Images)

A report in SciTechDaily noted that the spacewalkers were conducting repairs on ISS equipment when the toolbar slipped away, though the mishap luckily happened after the equipment was no longer needed for the repairs. A mission control analysis following the mishap determined that there was low risk of the tool bag recontacting the ISS and that the crew were safe to continue the mission without further action.

Astronaut outside the ISS conducting repairs

In this handout image provided by NASA, NASA astronauts Steve Bowen, foreground, and Alvin Drew, both STS-133 mission specialists, participate in the missions first session of extravehicular activity as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. ( NASA via Getty Images)


Earth Sky noted that the bag is expected to orbit Earth for a few months at a slow descent before rapidly descending to about 70 miles above the Earth’s surface and disintegrating well before reaching the ground. Current estimates indicate the lost gear should reenter the Earth’s atmosphere around March of next year.

International Space Station

In this handout photo released by Roscosmos State Space Corporation, a view of the International Space Station taken on March 30, 2022, by the crew of the Russian Soyuz MS-19 spaceship after undocking from the International Space Station. (Roscosmos State Space Corporation via AP, File)


The escaped bag isn’t the first time an astronaut has lost their tools in space, coming after a 2008 incident that saw a tool bag meet the same fate during similar repairs. Like the current bag, that equipment was visible just ahead of the ISS for two months before it finally descended back into Earth’s atmosphere.

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