NASA astronauts lost a bag of tools in space. Here’s how to spot it from home

Add “bag of tools” to the list of objects currently orbiting Earth. And no, this is not meant to be a joke.

NASA astronauts Jasmine Mogbel and Loral O'Hara were conducting a spacewalk and performing maintenance on the exterior of the International Space Station on Nov. 1 when their tool bag flew away from them and into space beyond.

NASA confirmed the incident In a blog post about space walks.

“One tool bag was inadvertently lost during the activity. Flight controllers using the station's external cameras spotted the tool bag,” the agency wrote. “No weapons were needed for the remainder of the spacewalk.”

ESA Reserve Astronaut Megan Christian Shared footage The moment the tool bag was dropped from the fence on X, formerly known as Twitter, on November 5th. At the time, he said the bag was last spotted by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Satoshi Furukawa as it orbited aloft. Above Mount Fuji.

NASA said Mission Control analyzed the bag's trajectory and determined that the risk of it colliding with the station is low and that the station and crew are safe. According to Earthsky.org, the bag is expected to remain in orbit for several months, gradually falling until it reaches Earth's atmosphere, where it will most likely disintegrate.

The bag is highly reflective, so as it loses altitude it should become visible to onlookers on the ground. Here are some tips for keeping track of your tool bag.

Track the location of the tool bag

Jonathan McDowell, astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, It was confirmed last week That bag has been cataloged by the US Space Force and assigned catalog number 58229/1998-067WC.

It is officially being tracked as a new orbital object and can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection Track its location in real time via satellite tracking site N2YO.com. Although the tool bag's N2YO profile lists the launch date as Nov. 20, 1998, McDowell, who is familiar with the site, said the profile is, indeed, for the bag that went missing earlier this month.

“Their ‘launch date is 1998' information stems from the fact that the international designation is in the 1998-067 series (1998-067A is the first ISS element, the Zarya module),” he said in a post on X, previously known. Like Twitter. “But that's how all ISS launch objects are designated.”

You can also find out when the tool bag – technically known as the ‘crew lock bag' – is through. Tracking the location of the ISS and plans to search a few minutes before passing the space station. As it loses altitude, the tiny satellite should appear two to four minutes before the ISS.

Get out the binoculars

together Stellar visual magnitude Out of about six, according to EarthSky, the sack is slightly dimmed by the planet Uranus. As a result, it is not bright enough to be visible to the naked eye, but night sky watchers should be able to see it with binoculars.

Outside the International Space Station, a bag of tools lost during a spacewalk floats through space. (Satoshi Furukawa/Earth Science and Remote Sensing Division, NASA Johnson Space Center)

Just find out when it's supposed to cross the night sky and look up. The bag currently orbits the Earth every 92 minutes at a distance of 419.2 to 421.6 km.

Not the first tool bag in space

This isn't the first vagrant tool bag to orbit Earth. In 2008, a briefcase-sized bag of tools was opened and dropped from astronaut Heidemarie Stefanishin-Piper while she was performing maintenance on the space station's solar panels.

“What it ends up doing is that all it takes is one little mistake, that the harness isn't attached properly or it slips off, and that's what happened here,” spacewalk chief John Ray said at the time.

The bag was one of the largest items ever lost by an astronaut in space, and NASA estimated its value at about $100,000.

Astronauts have lost other things in space. CNN reports that the list of junk during spacewalks on the ISS includes a thermal blanket, two tools, a bolt, a spring, a washer, and a 14-inch spatula.

In fact, the European Space Agency said in September that there were 35,290 debris objects in space tracked by the Space Surveillance Networks and cataloged.

Including both space junk and orbiting satellites, the agency estimates the total mass of all space objects in Earth orbit is More than 11,000 tons.