Oopsy: Astronauts "Drop" Tool Kit During Spacewalk

By Eliza Strickland | November 19, 2008 9:52 am

tool kit in spaceIn an unusual moment of klutziness, spacewalking astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper let a tool kit slip from her grasp while she was working outside the International Space Station yesterday, and watched helplessly as it drifted away into deep space. “Oh, great,” said a dismayed Stefanyshyn-Piper, a veteran of two spacewalks in 2006, as she watched the bag float away [Florida Today].

The mishap occurred during the first of four spacewalks scheduled to be completed during the visit from the Endeavour space shuttle crew. The tool kit made its escape while Stefanyshyn-Piper and her colleague Steve Bowen were greasing a rotary joint on the station’s giant starboard solar array system. The joint has been unable to automatically point the solar wings toward the Sun for maximum energy production for over a year. Just as she was finishing up the job, the tool bag became untethered from a larger kit case and floated away along with a pair of grease guns, wipes and a putty knife. She reached out, but to no avail [BBC News].

The two spacewalkers were able to finish their task by sharing tools from Bowen’s bag. Mission controllers say the three remaining spacewalks will have to be revamped slightly to adjust for the reduced number of tools now available, but said that the loss posed no major problems. It simply highlights the precision necessary in everything that’s done in space, said one mission controller: “What it boils down to is all it takes is one small mistake for a tether not to be hooked up quite correctly or to slip off, and that’s what happened here,” said lead spacewalk officer John Ray [AP].

Space debris is a growing concern among NASA officials, who track the 8,000 or so pieces of orbiting man-made junk that are larger than 10 centimeters in diameter. The briefcase-sized tool kit is one of the largest objects ever lost during a spacewalk, but officials weren’t worried the bag would hit the space station or the docked space shuttle because by late Tuesday it already was 2 1/2 miles in front of the orbiting complex, said flight director Ginger Kerrick. “It is definitely moving away with every orbit,” Kerrick said [AP].

Related Content:
80beats: Shuttle Crew Prepares to Start Space Station Home Improvements
80beats: Space Station Air Conditioner Plunges to Earth
80beats: Repair Mission to the Hubble May Encounter Perilous Space Debris
DISCOVER: Watch the Skies–For Junk, an interview with the head of NASA’s orbital debris office

Image: NASA TV

  • http://None Carl

    To bad about 25,000.00 lost in space in an instant. A pair of space age grease guns, space wipes and a space putty knife totaling approximately 25,000.00. Now if they had regular grease guns to do the same job and just rags for wipes and a regular putty knife, this wouldn’t cost more than 25.00. Any mistakes made in space is gonna be very expensive and congress is watching and taking notes. I think NASA ought to try to cut-out of their expensive space prgram some items where cuts can be administered. I know they train in a swimming pool under water with all of their equipment, but are all of the space tools need to be so expensive? Can’t they use anything here on earth that can be used in space?

  • Huda

    Yeah, Carl. I agree. Instead of losing 25 grand, you can try to cut down some costs and try using some stuff here from Earth.

  • Terri

    Hellooooo, space – vacuum ….. no pressure ….. what works on the planet will not work in space … heloooo

  • Chris

    Carl and Huda are real dingbats. Ignorant morons who think they everything is so simple.

  • DrFruburger

    I bet you NASA spent millions on development of a pen that can write in space, with some sort of a solar pump system to keep the ink coming out… and I bet you Russians just used a pencil…

  • Smarty

    Wait!, nevermind about the price of the tools themselves, what is horribly expensive is to lift them to orbit

  • http://www.offshoremedicinepharmacy.com Nyla Vanbeveren

    Some of the featured products that are offered by 24×7 pharmacies, foreign online pharmacy company include Acomplia drug which is an anorectic anti obesity drug and its major avenue of cause is reduction of appetite. Propecia is another drug that helps in re-growth of hair and prevents testosterone to be converted into DHT. You can view prescriptions on their website by simply searching the category and then by obtaining knowledge about that particular medication you can easily order that drug online.

  • soapy5

    DrFruburger, you’d loose that bet. Quit spreading internet myths.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar