Nasa astronauts’ lost tool bag to be visible from Britain this week

Nasa dropped tool bag orbiting Earth
Nasa dropped tool bag orbiting Earth -

A stray tool bag dropped by astronauts on an International Space Station (ISS) 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 ISS, 250 miles above Earth earlier this month.

It has already been spotted orbiting the Earth around five minutes ahead of the ISS by astronauts on board the space station.

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.

Astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O'Hara on the International Space Station
Astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O'Hara on the International Space Station - NASA JOHNSON/SWNS

Weather permitting, Britons in the south will have a good chance of seeing the bag between 6.24pm and 6.34pm on Tuesday evening. The best time to see it will be on November 24 between 5.30pm and 5.41pm.

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 US 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 butterfingered astronauts have lost kit in space.

In 1965, Nasa astronaut Ed White lost a spare glove during a spacewalk outside of his Gemini 4 spacecraft.

While in 2006, Piers Sellers, another Nasa astronaut, lost a spatula in space while repairing a heat shield, and two years later Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper lost a tool bag while repairing a jammed gear on a solar panel.

Tool bag in space
Tool bag shown by a dot on a telescope - Nasa

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 Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, as he was photographing Mount Fuji as he passed over his native nation.

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 had planned to remove and stow a communications electronics box called the Radio Frequency Group but ran out of time.

During the assessment of this task’s feasibility the duo lifted some insulation to get a better view of the job and it is thought one 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 is tracking the tool bag.

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