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A View from Brittany Sauser

Astronauts Lose $100,000 Tool Kit

Important pieces of hardware float away as the astronauts watch in dismay.

  • November 21, 2008

Would you lose your grip on a briefcase containing $100,000?

In the first of four planned spacewalks on Tuesday, a NASA astronaut made a costly mistake: not properly tethering her tool kit. Heidemaire Stefanyshyn-Piper, the first woman to lead a spacewalk, was cleaning a leaking grease gun used to fix a jammed solar array on the International Space Station (ISS) when she noticed her brief-cased sized tool tote drifting off. The astronauts could do nothing but grimly watch the bag, worth an estimated $100,000, slowly float out of reach. The tool kit contained two grease guns, a putty knife and cloth mitts. The mistake leaves Stefanyshyn-Piper and astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Stephen Bowen with only a single pair of grease guns for the remaining spacewalks. This could mean that the astronauts are not able to perform all the necessary repairs to the ISS, delaying critical fixes and even future mission plans.

Below is a video of the tool kit drifting off into space with narration from mission control in Houston.

Although this is not the first time equipment has been lost in space, it is the largest item to make the list of space junk. Spatulas, foot holds, washers, bolts, and recently a spider have all gone missing in space. Space program managers are claiming, however, that the spider is just temporarily AWOL inside the ISS. The other items though must be carefully tracked so that they do not cause damage to the shuttle or other spacecraft in orbit. Even the smallest peice of debris could cause catastrophic damage if a collision were to occur.

Yesterday, the astronauts conducted a successful second spacewalk. You can watch the mission live on NASA TV.

Video courtesy of NASA

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