Everybody makes mistakes at work, but luckily for most of us, they aren’t broadcast widely.
Unfortunately for astronauts on the International Space Station, that isn’t the case, and so the case of the lost tool bag is now making headlines across the globe.
However, while preparing to work on a communications electronics box, flight controllers spotted a tool bag spinning off into space.
An assessment was quickly made by Nasa to work out whether the kit would smash into the space station. However, it was deemed low risk and left to drift away into space.
Nasa has not revealed who may have been in charge of the tool bag.
Keen space watchers may query how the bag managed to drift away from the crew and the ISS when all were travelling with the same momentum, but contrary to popular belief, space isn’t quite a vacuum.
There is a small about of atmospheric drag that means when items become detached from the speeding ISS – travelling at 7.7 kilometres a second – they can drift away out of reach.
In addition, the astronaut’s clunky EMUs (extravehicular mobility units) are not conducive for quick and nimble movements to catch anything that goes astray.
During the spacewalk the astronauts had planned to remove and stow a communications electronics box called the Radio Frequency Group, but there was not enough time to complete the work.
The duo lifted some multilayer insulation to make a better assessment of how to approach the job before replacing the insulation and deferring the task to a future spacewalk.
Have any other objects ever been lost in space?
The floating tool bag isn’t the first thing to be dropped by astronauts in space – in fact, it isn’t even the first tool bag orbiting the planet.
Other objects accidentally lost by astronauts during space walks include a camera, a glove, pliers and the world’s most famous spatula.
Dropped in 2006 by Piers Sellers, it was quickly nicknamed ‘spatsat’, it burned up in the atmosphere four months later.
‘During the activity, one tool bag was inadvertently lost,’ said Nasa spokesperson Mark Garcia. ‘Flight controllers spotted the tool bag using external station cameras.
‘The tools were not needed for the remainder of the spacewalk. Mission Control analysed the bag’s trajectory and determined that risk of recontacting the station is low and that the onboard crew and space station are safe with no action required.’
Ms Moghbeli and Ms O’Hara were able to complete one of the spacewalk’s two major objectives, replacing one of the 12 trundle bearing assemblies on the port solar alpha rotary joint, which allows the arrays to track the Sun and generate electricity to power the station.
Mission Control told the station crew that the solar array is functioning well after the bearing replacement.
The spacewalkers also removed a handling bar fixture to prepare for future installation of a roll-out solar array and properly configured a cable that was previously interfering with an external camera.
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