Nasa astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara lost the tool bag on November 2, 2023, during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS).
Currently orbiting just ahead of the ISS, the bag, officially known as a crew lock bag, has a visual magnitude of around 6, making it slightly dimmer than the ice giant Uranus.
Although not visible to the naked eye, skywatchers armed with binoculars can spot the tool bag. To catch a glimpse, observers can track the space station over the next few months, with the bag floating two to four minutes ahead of the station. The bag is expected to disintegrate when it reaches an altitude of approximately 70 miles (113 kilometres) over Earth.
Reserve astronaut Meganne Christian shared footage of the tool bag’s escape on her X account, noting that Crew-7 astronaut Satoshi Furukawa last spotted it high above Mount Fuji. Harvard Center for Astrophysics astronomer Jonathan McDowell revealed that the bag is in a roughly 258 by 258 mile (415 by 416 kilometre) orbit.
It has been catalogued in the U.S. Space Force’s system as 58229 / 1998–067WC.
This incident adds to the collection of artificial space debris encircling Earth, including remnants from shuttles, damaged satellites, and tools from previous space missions.
Notably, it is not the first time a tool bag has reached orbit, recalling a similar event in 2008. In the realm of peculiar items in orbit, a spatula holds the title, with the late Nasa astronaut Piers Sellers accidentally releasing it during the space shuttle Discovery’s flight STS-121 in 2006.