Drifting away (credit: NASA)
By Michael Banks
The term “space junk” usually means spent rocket stages or disused satellites floating in orbit around the Earth.
But while on a routine servicing mission to the International Space Station (ISS) late last year to fix a solar panel, US astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper watched helplessly as her toolkit, containing grease guns and scrapers, floated off into space.
Fortunately, the $100 000 tool bag was moving away from the ISS, so there was no chance of it making a big dent in the station, which would have needed more than a tool bag to fix.
Instead, however, the 14 kg space satchel was circling earth getting ever closer with each orbit.
According to the website space.com the toolbag has now burnt up in the Earth’s atmosphere – eight months after it first drifted away in orbit. Some reports say the toolkit’s demise happened at 1.16pm GMT over the Pacific Ocean.