Kathy Sullivan
In an image provided by NASA, Kathy Sullivan during a space walk from the shuttle Challenger in 1984. On Sunday, June 7, 2020, Sullivan, 68, an astronaut and oceanographer, emerged from her 35,810-foot dive to the Challenger Deep, according to EYOS Expeditions, a company coordinating the logistics of the mission. Image Credit: (NASA via The New York Times)

Washington DC: As NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O'Hara marked their first spacewalk on November 1, an unfortunate incident occurred with their tool bag being lost. The bag is currently floating in space and will continue to do so over the next few months until it disintegrates in the Earth's atmosphere, reports CNN.

The spacewalk intended to complete works on the station's solar arrays, which track the sun. The pair ran out of time to remove and stow a communications electronics box, which will have to be completed during a future spacewalk. To make use of their time, the pair conducted an assessment of how the job could be done.

The pair concluded their maintenance work outside the International Space Station (ISS) in six hours and 42 minutes, according to the space agency.

NASA has said that during this near seven-hour mission, a tool bag was "lost". Fortunately, the tools were not necessary for the remainder of their tasks upon the space station. Using the ISS' (International Space Station) external cameras, flight controllers were able to spot the bag, CNN reports.

"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," NASA said on its official blog.

The tool bag now moves ahead of the ISS, and can potentially be seen from Earth with a pair of binoculars before it disintegrates, a website tracking cosmic events, called EarthSky reported.

Not the first time

This is not the first time an astronaut has lost tools in space, CNN has reported. Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper's bag floated away while she was cleaning and lubricating gears on a malfunctioning rotary joint in 2008. Whilst, in 2006 a spacewalk saw astronauts Piers Sellers and Michael Fossum lose a 14-inch spatula while testing a method of repairing the space shuttle.

Space debris or junk, like these objects, are artificial materials that orbit Earth but are no longer functional. They can be anything from a small chip of paint to parts discarded during rocket launches.

In September 2023, the European Space Agency estimated 35,290 objects were being tracked and catalogued by the various space surveillance networks, with the total mass of objects orbiting Earth amounting to more than 11,000 tons, reports CNN.