Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:
A tool bag is orbiting Earth. No, this isn't an elaborate Elon Musk joke.
The bag entered orbit during a spacewalk conducted by NASA astronauts and International Space Station residents Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O'Hara on November 1. During their almost seven-hour space stroll, during which they replaced bearings on a sun-tracking solar array and removed some communications equipment, NASA revealed the tool bag "was inadvertently lost," by one of the dynamic duo.
"Mission Control analyzed the bag's trajectory and determined that risk of recontacting the station is low and that the onboard crew and space station are safe with no action required," the space agency added.
Dr Meganne Christian, a member of the European Space Agency’s 2022 astronaut class, shared a snippet of helmet camera footage from Moghbeli's space suit showing the bag slipping away and the futile scramble to retrieve it.
But the container – a “crew lock bag” in official NASA parlance – didn’t just drift away out of human view.
Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics confirmed last week that the bag had been catalogued by the US Space Force as 58229/1998-067WC and was being tracked as a new orbital object.
The next day, Japanese ISS resident Satoshi Furukawa snapped a photo of the bag following day as the ISS passed over Japan.
According to McDowell, the bag isn't in a stable orbit, and is expected to re-enter Earth's atmosphere in a few months, when it will burn up completely and won't be a risk to anyone on the ground.
For those interested in observing the bag before it burns up in Earth's atmosphere, that just might be possible with the proper equipment and timing.
The bag's brightness is magnitude six , or just at the edge of the eye's unaided visibility limit under perfect conditions. Binoculars would make spotting it far easier. Sat-spotters seeking a sighting of the space spanners should look a few minutes ahead of the ISS’s expected path, which can be tracked online or with a recently launched mobile app.