NASA astronauts who accidentally dropped their toolbox during a spacewalk may have provided a unique picture challenge to photographers on Earth.
Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara were carrying out maintenance work outside the International Space Station when their satchel-sized tool bag floated away; it is now orbiting Earth and is classified as space junk.
— Dr Meganne Christian (@astro_meganne) November 5, 2023
The toolbox is several minutes ahead of the ISS and, according to EarthSky, it should be able to be seen with a pair of binoculars — or a telephoto lens.
“It’s surprisingly bright (for a tool bag), shining just below the limit of visibility to the unaided eye,” says the space website. “That means some sky observers should be able to pick it up with binoculars.”
If it really is visible then a talented astrophotographer on terra firma might be able to capture a photo of it.
The missing toolbag has already been pictured by Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa who fortuitously got a photo of it as he was trying to get a shot of Mount Fuji in his homeland.
The bag is expected to re-enter the Earth’s orbit in the coming month but it’s unlikely that NASA officials will get their tools back as it will probably burn up during re-entry. It is now one of more than 100,000 items of space junk circling the Earth.
It’s far from the first time astronauts have dropped an item while on a spacewalk and not even the first time an astronaut has dropped a toolbox.
In November 2008, Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper was performing a similar repair on a spacewalk when the same thing happened.
In 2006, spaceman Piers Sellers lost a spatula and the very first American spacewalker, Ed White, lost a spare glove.
Editor’s note: If you do get a photo of the toolbox then we would love to see it. You can use the tip line here.