ISS – “Umm, we have a lost tool,” came the heralding cry of Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper who, while cleaning and lubing a joint on a wing of one of the station’s solar panels, let a tool bag drift away just beyond her reach. The mission was able to be salvaged, however, as fellow spacewalk astronaut Stephen Bowen shared his tools with Stefanyshyn-Piper to complete their work in 7 hours.
In a video interview, Stefanyshyn-Piper said, “Well, it was definitely not the high point of the EVA. It was somewhat disheartening to open up the bag and to realize there was grease everywhere.”
Apparently the bag had suffered some kind of damage prior to use causing lubrication to spew out onto most of the tools. When Stefanyshyn-Piper reached in to clean off some of them, one of the bags drifted out and just beyond her grasp. In the video below at about 35 seconds you can see it drifting slowly away as she reaches for it, missing it only by an inch or so outside of her grasp. The entire event lasted just a couple seconds.
She said, “There was a split second when I could see it floating away and I started to judge how far away it was thinking, ‘well, can I reach and get it?’ And then I thought, ‘No, that would probably just make things worse,’ and the best thing to do would just be to let it go.”
Bowen said it was just as much his mistake for not triple-checking everything when the bags were closed up prior to EVA.
$100K floats away
The tool bag contained approximately $100,000 worth of tools and was one of the largest items ever lost by an astronaut on a spacewalk. NASA is currently altering future spacewalk plans as a result of the mishap, according to AP interview which can be seen on YouTube.