Our planet is orbited by thousands of satellites, some in low-Earth orbit and others in high orbit. While most satellites have a purpose and are intentionally placed in space, there are a few that can be considered as accidental satellites. One such object is 1998-067WC, also known as the ISS TOOL BAG, which was inadvertently lost during a spacewalk by NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara on November 1.
During the spacewalk, the astronauts replaced a trundle bearing assembly on a solar array, and unintentionally dropped the tool bag. Flight controllers spotted the bag using external station cameras, but determined that it posed no risk to the space station and the crew. The bag’s trajectory was analyzed, and it was deemed safe with no need for further action.
Although the tool bag is not visible to the naked eye, it can be spotted with binoculars. Amateur astronomers have captured videos of the bag as it orbits the Earth at an altitude of approximately 420 kilometers. The bag now follows a similar path as the space station, but approximately 10 minutes ahead of it.
To locate the tool bag, it is necessary to know the whereabouts of the space station. Websites like heavens-above.com provide reliable times for spotting the station in your location. The space station itself is easily visible without binoculars and presents a magnificent sight.
The tool bag, with the orbital designation 1998-067WC, is connected to the launch of the station’s first module in 1998, although it was not present on the initial rocket. NASA predicts that the bag will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up between March and July of next year.
This incident of a lost tool bag is not the first in space history. In 2008, astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper lost a similar tool bag while working on the station’s solar panels. In 1965, during one of the first spacewalks ever, astronaut Ed White accidentally released an extra glove, which floated away.