The Daily Telegraph
Is it a bird? A plane? No, it’s Nasa’s lost toolbox
Look up to the stars tomorrow evening and you’ll be able to spot bag dropped from the ISS
A TOOL bag dropped by astronauts on a space walk will be visible from the ground as it flies over Britain on Tuesday.
The kit bag was lost by Nasa astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’hara as they fixed a solar panel on the International Space Station (ISS), 250 miles above Earth earlier this month.
It has already been spotted orbiting the Earth about five minutes ahead of the ISS by astronauts on board the platform.
But astronomers on the ground have now spotted the bag, shining like a slow moving star as it precedes the trajectory of the ISS by a few minutes.
Experts say the bag is surprisingly bright and although it is shining slightly below the limit of naked -eye visibility, amateurs should be able to spot it using binoculars or a telescope.
Weather permitting, Britons in London will have a good chance of seeing the bag between 8pm and 8.11pm tomorrow.
The best time to see it will be on Sunday between 5.27pm and 5.37pm.
Astronomers from the Virtual Telescope Project first spotted the object from the ground last week.
Gianluca Masi, the project founder, posted an image, adding: “The object looks like a sharp dot of light in the centre, as the telescope tracked it.”
The tool bag has been given the United States Space Force designation 58229/1998-067WC so that it can be tracked to check it will not pose a threat to the ISS or satellites. It is not the first time that butter-fingered astronauts have lost kit in space.
In 1965, American astronaut Ed
White lost a spare glove during a spacewalk outside his Gemini 4 spacecraft.
In 2006, Piers Sellers, another Nasa astronaut who was born in East Sussex, lost a spatula in space while repairing a heat shield.
Two years later Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-piper lost a tool bag while repairing a jammed gear on a solar panel.
In that case, the tool bag was still visible ahead of the ISS for months after it was lost.
The latest blunder on Nov 1 was photographed accidentally by Satoshi Furukawa, a Japanese astronaut, as he was taking pictures of Mount Fuji as he passed over his homeland.
Nasa joked that they should have fitted the bag with a tracking device so the crew could retrieve the lost kit the next time they complete an orbit.
The astronauts on the ISS space walk had planned to remove and stow a communications electronics box called the Radio Frequency Group but ran out of time.
During an assessment of the feasibility of the task the duo lifted some insulation to get a better view of the job and it is thought the bag was accidentally misplaced during this process.
“During the activity, one tool bag was inadvertently lost. Flight controllers spotted the tool bag using external station cameras,” said Mark Garcia, a Nasa spokesman.
“The tools were not needed for the remainder of the spacewalk. Mission Control analysed the bag’s trajectory and determined that the risk of recontacting the station is low and that the onboard crew and space station are safe with no action required.”
The website N2y0.com is tracking the tool bag.
‘The object looks like a sharp dot of light in the centre, as the telescope tracked it’