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This article is from the In-Depth Report The Growing Threat of Space Junk

Tool kit dropped from space station is orbital junk no more

ISS tool bag, tool kit, burnA tool bag lost by a spacewalking astronaut in November appears to have met its end after more than eight months in orbit. The chief scientist at NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office says the tool kit should have reentered the atmosphere this morning. "We are waiting on a post-reentry assessment of time and location," to be completed later today by military space monitors, says Nicholas Johnson, who is based at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The bag's anticipated reentry was noted over the weekend by Universe Today, which predicted a fireball over the Pacific Ocean at 9:16 a.m. (Eastern Daylight Time) as the kit completely burned up in the atmosphere.

During space shuttle Endeavour’s STS-126 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in November, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper lost control of the bag, which contained scrapers, wipes and a pair of grease guns. She and a fellow spacewalker were working on one of the ISS's Solar Alpha Rotary Joints, which allow the station's solar panels to track the changing position of the sun during orbit. Stefanyshyn-Piper had been cleaning some errant grease from the inside of a larger carrier bag when the tool kit drifted away.

At the time, NASA forecast that the tool kit would reenter the atmosphere and burn up in about six months. During its time in space, which proved to be a bit longer than predicted, the tool bag was trackable via Web sites such as Heavens Above, which provides orbital data for spacecraft and satellites. And at least one amateur stargazer even managed to catch the bag crossing the night sky on video.

Photo of tool bag drifting away from ISS: NASA

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