Good news, everyone: Earth has a new satellite! The newest hunk of space junk was inadvertently set into motion by a Historic! all-female space walk crew. It is currently following a trajectory that precedes the International Space Station (ISS) by two to four minutes and is bright enough to be seen with only the aid of a pair of ordinary binoculars.
NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara are currently on a science mission, living and working aboard the ISS microgravity laboratory. On Wednesday, Nov. 1, the pair completed an impressive 6-hour, 42-minute spacewalk, or extravehicular activity (EVA), during which they made some repairs, failed to make others, and lost a sack of equipment.
On its blog, NASA reported:
Moghbeli and O’Hara were able to complete one of the spacewalk’s two major objectives, replacing one of the 12 trundle bearing assemblies on the port solar alpha rotary joint, which allows the arrays to track the Sun and generate electricity to power the station. Mission Control told the station crew that the solar array is functioning well after the bearing replacement. Spacewalkers also removed a handling bar fixture to prepare for future installation of a roll-out solar array and properly configured a cable that was previously interfering with an external camera.
The astronauts had planned to remove and stow a communications electronics box called the Radio Frequency Group, but there was not enough time during the spacewalk to complete the work. …
Space.com revealed the reason for the time loss that resulted in an incomplete mission:
Unfortunately, the trundle bearing did not come free as easily as expected. O'Hara, assisted by Moghbeli, ran into delays loosening the bolts holding the degraded trundle bearing in place. Though it finally came loose, it left Moghbeli and O'Hara about an hour behind in the schedule.
Now, I wasn't there, so I can't say for certain what went wrong. But I do know that when I can't get a bolt loose, I call over the nearest man and he gets it done in a jiffy. Just sayin'.
At any rate, the Historic! spacegals got the replacement trundle bearing bolted into place, at which point Mission Control sexistly radioed them to say, "Nicely done ladies, we're going to call that a good bolt." No doubt, someone got ordered to sensitivity training for the grave transgression.
At one point, an errant bag of equipment broke free from its captors and headed out into open space. UK space-ocrat Dr. Meganne Christian posted video of the moment the renegade tool bag made its bold escape from Historic! astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, whose fingers can be seen in shadow, grasping after it:
Thanks to the enterprising actions of the Historic! female astronaut, stargazers now have a new light in the sky to admire. EarthSky reports:
The tool bag is now orbiting Earth just ahead of the International Space Station. It’s surprisingly bright (for a tool bag), shining just below the limit of visibility to the unaided eye at around magnitude +6. That means some sky observers should be able to pick it up with binoculars.
The orbiting tool tote is in a deteriorating orbit, but don't you trouble your pretty little head about it. NASA reported that "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." And according to Space.com, "As it descends rapidly, the bag is likely to disintegrate when it reaches an altitude of around 70 miles (113 kilometers) over Earth."