Amateur astronomers around the world are in for a treat, as they now have the opportunity to spot a toolkit that was recently dropped from the International Space Station (ISS) by NASA astronauts during a spacewalk. The toolkit, which is floating just ahead of the ISS as it orbits Earth, is now visible to the naked eye with the use of binoculars from a backyard.
On November 3, astronauts carried out a spacewalk for maintenance purposes on the ISS, during which a crew lock bag filled with tools was inadvertently dropped. This accidental release could potentially be a costly mistake for NASA, as replacing a similar lost bag in 2008 was estimated to have cost a whopping $100,000. The high price tag is mainly due to the exorbitant expenses associated with shipping equipment to the ISS, which can amount to approximately $18,000 per pound.
The toolkit, with its unique size and shape, has a visual magnitude of around six, making it slightly less bright than Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun. This makes it visible to observers equipped with binoculars and provides a thrilling opportunity for stargazers to spot a piece of equipment that has traveled all the way from space.
Depending on their location, amateur astronomers in New York can catch a glimpse of the toolkit at approximately 7 PM ET, while those in Los Angeles should keep an eye out for it at around 7:15 PM PT. Although the toolkit is no longer in use by the astronauts aboard the ISS, its accidental release serves as a reminder of the challenges and potential financial setbacks that space agencies face when it comes to equipment management.
However, NASA’s ongoing advancements in 3D printing technology on the ISS offer a glimmer of hope for the future. This technology could potentially eliminate the need for sending a whole new toolkit into orbit, as tools can now be manufactured on the station itself. This breakthrough not only presents a cost-saving opportunity but also highlights the progress being made toward self-sustainability in space exploration.
So, if you’re an astronomy enthusiast who enjoys gazing at the wonders of the night sky, make sure to set aside some time to spot this floating toolkit. Not only is it a rare sight, but it also serves as a reminder of the immense effort and resources required to explore the final frontier.
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