A bag of tools that drifted away from astronauts on Nov. 1 during a maintenance spacewalk is outside the International Space Station in slow Earth orbit — and for now, it’s giving stargazers an extra artificial object to look for in the night sky.
During a spacewalk that lasted six hours and 42 minutes, NASA astronauts Yasmine Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara completed one of the spacewalk’s goals: replacing the roller bearing assembly that helps the port’s Alpha solar array track the sun and generate electricity for the station.
In spacewalk photos, the tool bag — which NASA calls the “crew lock bag” — was visible as the astronauts worked.
While performing the next mission to store the communications box, the astronauts decided that there was not enough time to finish the mission. During the mission evaluation, the tool bag drifted away and could no longer be retrieved. No instruments were needed to do additional work on this spacewalk.
On the same day, during “unrelated Earth observation activities,” Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa took a photo of the drifting bag.
What’s in your space kit?
According to NASA, the crew lock bag contains sling, hardware handling aids and a socket wrench. A NASA representative estimated the value of the bag and its contents at “about $100,000” if purchased today.
In total, the bag and tools weighed 42.9 pounds.
The crew hasn’t been on board the space station without tools for very long — a replacement bag was delivered to the space station on November 11 aboard NASA’s SpaceX 29th commercial resupply mission, and NASA said the impact on station operations was minimal.
Where is the crew lock bag now?
After analyzing the bag’s path, mission control confirmed that the bag is gradually exiting orbit and does not pose a danger to the space station and the crew on board on its current path. The bag is estimated to remain in orbit until spring and mid-summer 2024 and disintegrate when it reaches an altitude of 70 miles above the Earth’s surface.
Meanwhile, there have already been reports of sightings of crew lock bags. Astronomy news site EarthSky reports that the bag measures +6, Which makes it a bit too dark to see with the naked eye but is visible with binoculars, if you know where to look. The bag shares an orbit with the space station and travels forward by several minutes, although the time gap increases as the bag gradually loses orbit.
To find out when the space station will pass by your area, use… NASA’s Spot The Station instrument To determine the station’s orbit and location in the sky.
NASA sources; EarthSky
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