NASA astronauts lost a bag of tools in space. Here’s how to spot it from home

Nov 16, 2023, 2:17 PM

An astronaut tool bag dropped during a spacewalk can be seen orbiting Earth above Japan on Nov. 2, ...

An astronaut tool bag dropped during a spacewalk can be seen orbiting Earth above Japan on Nov. 2, 2023. (Image credit: NASA/JSC/Satoshi Furukawa)

(Image credit: NASA/JSC/Satoshi Furukawa)

TORONTO — Add “bag of tools” to the list of objects currently orbiting Earth. And no, this isn’t the set-up for a joke.

NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara were conducting a spacewalk and performing maintenance on the outside of the International Space Station on Nov. 1 when their tool bag drifted away from them and into the empty space beyond.

NASA confirmed the incident in a blog post about the space walk.

“During the activity, one tool bag was inadvertently lost. Flight controllers spotted the tool bag using external station cameras,” the agency wrote. “The tools were not needed for the remainder of the spacewalk.”

European Space Agency reserve astronaut Meganne Christian shared footage(opens in a new tab) of the moment the tool bag drifted away from Moghbeli in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Nov. 5. At that time, she said the bag had last been spotted by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Satoshi Furukawa as it orbited high above Mount Fuji.

NASA said Mission Control analyzed the bag’s trajectory and determined that risk of it colliding with the station is low and that the station and crew are safe. According to, the bag is expected to remain in orbit for several months, gradually descending until it reaches Earth’s atmosphere where it will most likely disintegrate.

The bag is highly reflective, so as it loses height, it should become visible to Earth-bound onlookers. Here are some tips for catching a glimpse of the tool bag.


Jonathan McDowell, astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, confirmed last week that the bag has been cataloged by the U.S. Space Force and assigned the catalog number 58229/1998-067WC.

It’s officially being tracked as a new orbital object, and anyone with an internet connection can monitor its location in real time via the satellite tracking site Although the N2YO profile for the tool bag lists the launch date as Nov. 20, 1998, McDowell, who is familiar with the site, said the profile is, indeed, for the bag lost earlier this month.

“Their ‘launch date is 1998’ info was generated from the fact that the international designation is in the 1998-067 series (1998-067A is the first ISS element, the Zarya module),” he said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “But that’s how all ISS released objects are designated.”

You can also figure out when the tool bag — technically known as a “crew lock bag” — will pass overhead by tracking the location of the ISS and planning to look up a few minutes before the space station is expected to pass by. As it loses height, the tiny satellite should appear between two and four minutes ahead of the ISS.


With a stellar visual magnitude of around six, according to EarthSky, the bag is a little dimmer than the planet Uranus. As a result, it’s not quite bright enough to be visible to the naked eye, but night sky watchers should be able to spot it with a pair of binoculars.

Simply figure out when it is due to pass overhead in the night sky and look up. The bag is currently orbiting Earth once every 92 minutes at a distance of between 419.2 and 421.6 kilometers.


This isn’t the first stray tool bag to orbit Earth. In 2008, a briefcase-sized tool bag came untethered and drifted away from astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper as she performed maintenance on the space station’s solar panels.

“What it boils down to is all it takes is one small mistake for a tether not to be hooked up quite correctly or to slip off, and that’s what happened here,” said lead spacewalk officer John Ray at the time.

The bag was one of the largest items ever lost by a spacewalking astronaut and NASA estimated its value was about $100,000.

Astronauts have lost other items in space, too. CNN reports that the list of junk set adrift during spacewalks on the ISS includes a thermal cover, two tools, a bolt, spring, washer and a 14-inch spatula.

In fact, the European Space Agency reported in September that there were 35,290 debris objects in space being tracked by Space Surveillance Networks and maintained in their catalog.

Including both space junk and satellites launched into orbit, the agency estimates that the total mass of all space objects in Earth orbit is more than 11,000 tons.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

World News

The USS Carney shot down two Houthi drones headed in the ship’s direction in the southern Red Sea...

Haley Britzky and Hamdi Alkhshali, CNN

USS Carney shoots down drones, responds to ballistic missile attack on commercial vessel

The USS Carney shot down two Houthi drones headed in the ship’s direction in the southern Red Sea on Sunday and responded to a distress call from a civilian commercial vessel that was fired upon by a ballistic missile, a US defense official said.

13 hours ago

FILE: French police have arrested a man suspected of killing one person and injuring two others in ...

Chris Liakos, Heather Chen and Mitchell McCluskey, CNN

One dead, two injured in Paris knife and hammer attack near Eiffel Tower

 (CNN) — French police have arrested a man suspected of killing one person and injuring two others in a knife and hammer attack in central Paris. The attack took place at Bir Hakeim, near the Eiffel Tower, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told reporters at the scene on Saturday night. He said that the man arrested […]

1 day ago

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un meets with members of the Non-Standing Satellite Launch Preparatio...

Akanksha Sharma, CNN

North Korea says any US interference with its ‘space assets’ will be deemed ‘declaration of war’

North Korea has warned any potential interference or attack on its “space assets” by the United States will be “deemed a declaration of war,” the state media outlet KCNA reported on Saturday.

2 days ago

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he disembarks from an aircraft on his arrival in Te...

MATTHEW LEE, AP Diplomatic Writer

Blinken urges Israel to comply with international law in war against Hamas as truce is extended

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday stepped up calls for Israel to comply with international law as it wages its war against Hamas in Gaza.

4 days ago

The effects of destruction caused by air strikes on homes seen on November 30, 2023 in Khan Yunis, ...

Melanie Lidman, Najib Jobain and Kareem Chehayeb

Truce in Gaza endures another day and more hostages are freed, but tougher talks ahead

The Israeli military says two more Israeli hostages have been released from captivity in the Gaza Strip.

4 days ago

In this photo provided by Japan Coast Guard, debris believed to be from a U.S. military Osprey airc...

Mari Yamaguchi

US military Osprey aircraft with 8 aboard crashes off southern Japan, at least 1 dead

A crew member who was recovered from the ocean after a U.S. military Osprey aircraft carrying eight people crashed Wednesday off southern Japan has been pronounced dead, coast guard officials said.

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Design mockup half in white and half in color of luxury house interior with open plan living room a...

Lighting Design

Lighting Design 101: Learn the Basics

These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home, so you can meet both practical and aesthetic needs.

an antler with large horns int he wilderness...

Three Bear Lodge

Yellowstone in the Fall: A Wildlife Spectacle Worth Witnessing

While most people travel to this park in the summer, late fall in Yellowstone provides a wealth of highlights to make a memorable experience.

a diverse group of students raising their hands in a classroom...

Little Orchard Preschool

6 Benefits of Preschool for Kids

Some of the benefits of preschool for kids include developing independence, curiosity, and learning more about the world.

NASA astronauts lost a bag of tools in space. Here’s how to spot it from home