Endeavour's Orbiting Tool Bag Can Be Seen Using 10 x 50 Binoculars

November 27, 2008 by Mary Anne Simpson, Phys.org weblog

STS-126 ISS Starboard Section - Credit: NASA
(PhysOrg.com) -- Endeavor astronaut Heidi Stefanyshyn-Piper's loss has turned out to be an amateur star gazers' event of the season. The $100,000 tool bag slipped out of her reach and floated into space while she was trying to clean up a greasy mess on the starboard section of the space station. The tool bag is now dubbed ISS Toolbag and is orbiting the Earth. According to Space.com, Edward Light spotted the orbiting tool bag using 10 x 50 binoculars from his backyard in Lakewood, New Jersey.

SpaceWeather.com has launched a satellite tracking system which allows the public to input their zip code and get a schedule of when the ISS tool bag will be doing a flyby in their neighborhood. The satellite tracking system provides the time, date, direction to look, transit time, maximum elevation and magnitude of the ISS Toolbag.

Close behind the ISS Toolbag is the International Space Station doing its flyby. The ISS has a very bright appearance compared to the tool bag. The site gives a week ahead calendar of the flyby events. If you miss one evening, you can catch it some other night. The ISS Toolbag is expected to continue to orbit until its fiery reentry some time in June, 2009.

According to NASA scientist Nicholas Johnson, the exact date of reentry is dependent on solar activity. So, the actual fiery end of the ISS Toolbag could be sooner or later than the predicted June date. It is not expected that any components of the Toolbag will reach the Earth´s surface. A reentry survivability analysis has not been conducted, but in all likelihood it will simply burn up during reentry.

The orbiting tool bag weighs approximately 30-pounds. It measures 20-inches wide and 12-inches long. The tool bag contains two grease guns, a scraper tool, a large trash bag and a small debris bag. Given the size and dim magnitude of the orbiting tool bag, star gazers will need binoculars or a small telescope to view it.

On November 22, Kevin Fetter of Brockville, Ontario Canada captured the orbiting ISS Tool Bag on video. See his Lost Tool Bag YouTube Video above. Astronaut Heidi Stefanyshyn-Piper's now infamous tool bag fumble can be viewed in another Short Version YouTube video. In the weeks to come the ISS Tool Bag will be visible to all of North America.

© 2008 PhysOrg.com

Explore further: ISS Crew Repair Carbon Dioxide Removal System, Prepare For New Supplies

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Display comments: newest first

2.7 / 5 (6) Nov 27, 2008
I thought they were supposed to keep this stuff tethered to prevent such things from happening? Am I wrong?
So what do you say to that anyway... after all the millions of tax dollars that were poured into training and preparation etc...
"Oops, did I do that?... oh well, it was only worth $100,000."
1 / 5 (12) Nov 27, 2008
well if u can watch a toolbag with a bakyard telescope guess what ? u can watch the secret
space program space platforms also, witch are used forcomunicatiions of the secret space fleet and alien intercept

and in case u was thiking im tripin or kiiding
watch the video
5 / 5 (8) Nov 27, 2008
and in case u was thiking im tripin or kiiding
watch the video

Ok. I see an idiot gawking at an out-of-focus blob through a lense with much too high magnification and a noisy atmosphere( http://en.wikiped...l_seeing ).

What am I supposed to be seeing?
4.2 / 5 (5) Nov 27, 2008
lol morpheus2012. That could be anything. It looks suspiciously like an over saturated image of a fishing yacht, and its wake. Maybe you should stop eating too many of those funny colored mushrooms ;)
1.9 / 5 (9) Nov 27, 2008
Any guy who is honest will tell you that 99% of women and tools other than for cooking, cleaning, or mending clothes don't mix well together, I have about ten screwdrivers to attest to that fact.
4.3 / 5 (4) Nov 27, 2008
bmerc: that's true, but it is also true of most guys. Most people are pretty clueless at mechanical repair/tinkering.
1.4 / 5 (9) Nov 27, 2008
This is a very good example of government waste. $100,000 for a small tool bag and some grease? They should shop at Sears or Wal-Mart and save the taxpayers some money.
4.6 / 5 (7) Nov 27, 2008
"If the tool bag is going to re-enter in just a few months ... what keeps the station orbit stable??"

When a shuttle or other craft docks to the station sometimes they burn the thrusters for a few minutes and push the station back to orbit.

Orbital decay also depends on mass and velocity.
The station has a much larger mass and roughly the same relative velocity as the bag. so the kinetic energy it constantly loses doesn't impact it's orbit so severely.

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