A misplaced set of tools
During a spacewalk lasting almost seven hours, Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara, who are currently aboard the International Space Station, were conducting repairs on the station when a tool bag was accidentally lost, according to a blog post by NASA. The astronauts are now in orbit around Earth.
According to a blog post, the tool bag was seen by flight controllers through cameras outside the station. The tools were not necessary for the rest of the spacewalk. Mission Control evaluated the bag’s path and concluded that there is a low chance of it coming into contact with the station again, and that both the crew and station are secure with no need for any action.
The tool bag, although not posing a danger to the space station, is currently in orbit. Similar to other orbiting objects, it has been designated as 1998-067WC/58229.
During his spacewalk above Mount Fuji 🗻, @Astro_Satoshi received notification from the ‘Orbital Police’ that the missing EVA equipment is currently being monitored https://t.co/wz4MITmAfM pic.twittercom/eksfu9fPFw
— Dr Meganne Christian (@astro_meganne) November 5, 2023
The website N2YO is monitoring over 28,000 objects in space and is currently tracking a bag that has been identified as debris from a satellite. As of Wednesday morning, the bag was observed flying above Japan and over the Pacific Ocean. N2YO’s map shows that the bag is traveling at a high speed.
There is a significant amount of space junk that cannot be seen from Earth, but it travels at high speeds in low Earth orbit (LEO). Certain types of space debris can reach speeds of 18,000 miles per hour.
NASA describes LEO as a “satellite graveyard” and “the biggest landfill in orbit,” hosting countless fragments of space debris – a significant portion of which is man-made, originating from spacecraft, satellites, and various objects launched from our planet into space.
Since 1979, NASA has been searching for methods to reduce the amount of space debris. However, the significant amount of debris in low Earth orbit (LEO) is partly due to two incidents: the 2007 destruction of a Chinese spacecraft, Fengyun-1C, and the accidental collision of an American and Russian spacecraft in 2009. According to NASA, these events caused a 70% increase in debris in the area and heightened the risk of future collisions between spacecraft.
There are currently no regulations in place for the removal of approximately 6,000 tons of debris in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), and the process is costly.