Lost in Space: Tool Bag Overboard, Spider Missing

Article written: 19 Nov , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by


A tool bag floated away in space as spacewalking astronauts worked outside the International Space Station Tuesday. Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper had a grease gun explode inside her tool bag, getting the dark gray goop all over a camera, the inside of the bag, and her gloves. While she was trying to clean it up, the whole bag floated away. “Oh, great,” Piper said. It was one of the largest items ever to be lost by a spacewalker. Lost were two grease guns, needed to clean and lube the jammed Solar Alpha Rotary Joint for the space station’s solar arrays. Flight director Ginger Kerrick said the bag and also an errant screw that also floated past that spacewalkers posed no hazards to the ISS or shuttle. By late Tuesday, the bag was already well away from the complex, about 2.5 miles (4 km) in front of the shuttle-station complex. The rest of the spacewalk went well, as Piper and her partner Stephen Bowen shared tools and accomplished all the planned objectives. Mission planners are studying options for replacing, or doing without, two grease guns lost.

Also lost is one of two spiders on board a special experiment…


While one orb weaver spiders weaved away in an ususual unsymmetrical manner, one spider is MIA.
“We don’t believe that it’s escaped the overall payload enclosure,” said Kirk Shireman, NASA’s deputy station program manager. “I’m sure we’ll find him spinning a web sometime here in the next few days.”

“The web was more or less three-dimensional and it looked like it was all over the inside of the spider hab,” said NASA astronaut Sandra Magnus, the space station’s science officer. “We took some pictures of it.” And here’s an image:
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Painted lady butterfly larvae were also included as a separate part of the experiment.

Students will compare the space butterflies’ lifecycle and how the spiders weave webs and feed in weightlessness with similar spiders and butterflies on Earth.

Also inside the station, astronauts moved two 1,700-pound (770 kg) water recycling racks into the Destiny lab module, as well as combustion research gear, and a new toilet and crew sleep stations.

The water recycling gear, which will convert condensate and urine into pure water for drinking, food preparation, hygiene and oxygen generation, is crucial for NASA’s plans to boost the station’s crew size to six next year. The astronauts hoped to hook up the two water processing racks today (Wednesday) and to begin pumping stored urine into the system Thursday.

Water samples will be returned to Earth aboard Endeavour for detailed chemical analysis. A full three months of testing is planned in orbit, with additional ground tests after the next shuttle visit in February, before any astronauts are allowed to drink the recycled water.

Sources: MSNBC, UPI


41 Responses

  1. Eric Near Buffalo says

    Without Earthlike gravity pushing down on spiders and keeping their size in check, how large could they possibly grow in space?

  2. Eric Near Buffalo says

    Genetics aside….that is.

  3. jason s says

    A million years from now Earth will be attacked by super advanced space spiders!!

  4. Silenus says

    A spider missing in action?

    Canibalism is wel known amongst certain spider species.

    Or else, safety guys must have overlooked a backdoor (I wouldn’t be surprised)

  5. Salacious B. Crumb says

    Good the see continued loss of items in orbit by the Americans (yet again.) Also pleases to see the usual “so what” attitude of the NASA and the general media. Oops! Oh Dear. Doesn’t matter… Like Hell it doesn’t!
    One of these days the ISS or some large satellite like Hubble is hit by a high velocity piece of orbiting space junk causing explosive decompression, many dead astronauts in orbit, and billions of fragments closing the entire low earth orbit to be out-of-bounds for decades or even centuries.
    I think the U.N. should enforce all space fairing nations a fine of say $100 million dollars to go into a fund every time some idiot does this. Part of the monies would go to pay insurance for the overall damage to other nation’s expensive satellites and lives. The remainder of the money would go to capture technology to clear the low-orbit space for all.
    I really don’t think “dropping rocks from overpasses” leaves an indelible impression of any competence or intelligence for us in the rest of the world. It’s bad enough we junk our own planet, but now we are starting to junking space. At some stage, this carelessness has got to stop. Tether everything down else face the consequences.

    Note: At least this is fractionally better than those idiot Chinese who deliberately destroyed a satellite in orbit leaving streams of particles in low earth orbit. Clearly this is also a “no brainer.”

  6. Sili says

    Next they’ll tell us they’ve lost the keys for the ignition and have to short the shuttle to get back home.

  7. robbb says

    3D webs instead of 2D! Crazy! love it!

    hopefully the missing spider will get irradiated by cosmic rays and then bite one of the astronauts who becomes spider-man.

    it could happen.

  8. Mike Jackson says

    “Good the see continued loss of items in orbit by the Americans (yet again.)”

    Yeah, what’s up with that? Why is it always the Americans and Russians who lose their stuff in orbit? What are the British, French and Sudanese (et al) doing right that the Americans are doing wrong?

    Dumb Americans.

  9. Hans Bausewein says

    A tool bag floated away in space AND a missing spider.

    I think we have a suspect 😉

    Spider got bored on board?

  10. James says

    Give me a break,

    Americans are doing advanced space science and construction that the “British, French and Sudanese ” are not doing and not even considering.

    A lost tool bag in space? 99.9% of the population has no idea how difficult it is to work in the vacuum of space.

    If you want a comparison put on 2 snow suits with gloves, jump into a pool, attach all of your tools you need to yourself with and work for 6 straight hours to complete your assigned mission without one mistake. Oh ya don’t forget to put on a big bulky helmet to breath.

  11. Joe says

    Done,
    Now what do I do ?

    🙂

    Joe

  12. Sammy says

    I think James missed the ironic intent Mike Jackson had in reference to Salacius’ obviously ignorant post.

  13. Astrofiend says

    “James Says:
    November 19th, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    “Give me a break,

    Americans are doing advanced space science and construction that the “British, French and Sudanese ” are not doing and not even considering. ”

    I think the reference to ‘Sudanese’ kind of gives it away that Mike Jackson was having a go at Salacius, not agreeing with him… Sudan’s space program was somewhat limited last time I checked.

  14. Sakib says

    Why is everyone being so serious?! This news was so funny I couldn’t stop laughing! Also the idea of a spider spinning a web in space is cute.

  15. Maxwell says

    Its embarrassing to lose stuff, but one of the reasons we have to practice space flight is to learn all the little lessons.
    Like the “tie everything to something else with a piece of string” bit.

  16. trux says

    Quote: Like the “tie everything to something else with a piece of string” bit.

    Yes, just like spiders do. Ah, I forgot, the spider got lost, so they did not have it as a good example anymore!

    Seriously, I was quite shocked seing the big tool case was not attached at all. I would assume it being attached all the time (since the moment of leaving the lock) either to the astronaut, or to the station. And most likely it ought to be – that was probably the big mistake the astronaut did, and a very serious breach of working procedures. At least I hope the procedures do not count with manipulating any unattached objects in open space. Regardless of the stress of the work in open space, I consider it a very serious incident and hope it won’t be ignored.

  17. Ron says

    Seriously, who read this article and did NOT thing about this?:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjHCeCKfWyM

  18. Silver Thread says

    You know, free falling in space, I don’t suppose it seems like you’d really need to tether anything down. I mean, you could literally just put an object, where ever, and let it go, assuming it doesn’t have any outside force acting on it, it won’t probably go anywhere.

    At any rate, I think a nice small Remote Controlled Robot would be pretty cool for retrieving dropped stuff like this without risking loss of a person, of course then you have the potential for the Robot to become drifting Space Junk, but I digress.

  19. btw says

    I realize that tractor beams will have to wait for another century but a well aimed grappling hook would have come in handy.

  20. Salacious B. Crumb says

    Mr. Obvious

    You said; “Nobody is “free” of this, and it cannot be avoided.”

    This is clearly wrong. Yes, much of it can be avoided.
    I suggest you read the earlier “Universe Today” article by Nancy Atkinson written on “Space Debris Illustrated: The Problem in Pictures”
    Here Nancy says;

    “Officials from the space shuttle program have said the shuttle regularly takes hits from space debris, and over 80 windows had to be replaced over the years. The ISS occasionally has to take evasive maneuvers to avoid collisions with space junk. And of course, this debris is not just sitting stationary: in orbit, relative velocities can be quite large, ranging in the tens of thousands of kilometers per hour.”

    She quotes directly from the ESA (which ain’t American r Russian”;
    “…the most probable relative velocity between the satellite and a debris object is 52,000 kilometers per hour. If a debris objects hits a satellite, the ISS or the Shuttle, at those speeds it could cause severe damage or catastrophe.”

    As to mitigation of these circumstances she quotes;;;
    “The ESA says it is crucial to start immediately to implement mitigation measures.”
    “The issue is that such mitigation measures cost fuel and operational time, and therefore they increase cost. In the commercial world, this may competitiveness, unless there is an international consensus to accept such costs.”
    The true problem is collision BETWEEN satellites and space junk already there, with the catastrophe.1

    Fraser Cain “Universe Today” on 14th March “When Will Space Traffic Control Be Necessary?” says;
    “There’s a building consensus that space debris is becoming a real threat to future space launches. The more material up there, the better chance it could collide with future spacecraft and stations. And there’s a worry that the density of space debris could reach some dangerous point where it collides and re-collides until a band of space becomes a shrieking hail of tiny particles moving at high velocity. No spacecraft could withstand passing through that region without being torn to shreds.”

    As to space law, “Universe Today” on 17th January 2008 says;

    “Space law would be concerned with four areas: keeping tabs on the current space traffic, a system of notification between nations or companies planning launches and missions to space, comprehensive rules for traffic to follow and a way to enforce these rules.”

    Some current “space laws” under international agreement were created in the U.N. Yet even the same January reference says;

    “Possibilities include the creation of World Space Organization, or placing the responsibilities on the shoulders of the existing International Civil Aviation Organization, which currently regulates the skies closer to Earth.”

    So it comes back to the issue of my original assertion;

    “Also pleased to see the usual “so what” attitude of the NASA and the general media. Oops! Oh Dear. Doesn’t matter… Like Hell it doesn’t!”

    As Tommaso Sgobba said (as quoted in Universe Today; 24 Feb 2008);

    “Failure to act now to regulate space to protect property and human life would be pure folly.”

    So at least I’m not the only putz here (as you so eloquently put it.)

    Note: Redneck Parochial Americans. I really do hate them…

  21. Mr Obvious says

    Salacious B. Dumb
    Get off your space junk high box… nobody stands to lose more than NASA and the Russian Federation, and while it is a problem, it isn’t dire.. there is still a lot of room in LEO, and nobody knows the problem better than the 2 largest space agencies, and I assure you, NASA doesn’t have a “so what” attitude about this…putz.

    Also, the UN cannot enforce anything other than overpaying their own people to solve nothing.

    …plus it isn’t like the astronaut was outright negligent. A grease gun exploded, getting all over the bag, tools and the astronaut. Her first priority being the preservation of the space suit, she began cleaning it, and while paying attention to detail to the item which allowed her to live… the bag floated away.

    If you were in this situation, you wouldn’t pay much attention to the bag either… you want to ensure you get the grease off of your suit before something fouls, fails, becomes contaminated or jammed up.
    oh…and moving around in a pressurized space suit in near zero gravity, isn’t exactly a piece of cake….putz.

  22. NoAstronomer says

    Are they sure it wasn’t a Trapdoor Spider?

  23. Salacious B. Crumb says

    Mr Obvious
    Your vicious tirade here isn’t appreciated.
    Clearly the environment off space, especially in lower Earth orbit, isn’t American or Russian territory (or any one country, the volume is shared internationally.
    No doubt this event might of been a slip up, but the damage of just one item in space is enough to be catastrophic or deadly to those who wish to occupy this region. One day, and it might not be too soon, some accident will happen, and who should we blame? Isn’t this real the way some country or other should behave; I.e. All care and no responsibility.
    If equipment falls from space there is a real danger of property damage or god-forbid some human life. if it isn’t in my backyard, then who cares? Eh? I.e. Again, all care and no responsibility.
    Although space-flight my have been the domain of the Americans and Russians, it is fast becoming within the realm of many different countries throughout the world.
    It is obvious that the region needs to be protected, and if America (or any other country) couldn’t give a rats, then maybe someone should.
    With all the excuses (and their variants) stated here shows both simple ignorance and complacency. Clearly, common sense tells us that the loss of anything in orbit is dangerous practice, and those occupying low Earth orbit have a general responsibility of both safety and prevention if they are in orbit. To suggest anything else is just ludicrous.
    The costs to have a back-up system in this case is negligible compared to have the whole region being unabled to be used by anyone just because some ignoramus deems it trivial.

    Shame on you to suggest otherwise!

    Note: As for the childish Yiddish insult of calling someone a “putz” only just magnifies my point.

  24. Mr. Obvious says

    Salcious Dumb
    You being a putz or someone calling you one doesn’t magnify any point you are making about garbage in space.

    No responsibility? I suppose this is largely a subjective definition… however like I said before, nobody stands to lose more, and every country which launches something into space… leaves garbage in space. This is from boosters, dead satellites, uncontrollables etc. Nobody is “free” of this, and it cannot be avoided.

    Responsibility… The United States spends a lot of money in order to track objects orbiting earth, and they share this information with other nations. The Russians have some ability to do this as well, but do not have the same coverage or ability to get smaller objects.

    ….responsibility… let your tirade is a lot worse than mine. You mindlessly blurt the obvious and damn people without full knowledge of the subject… as if the whole world doesn’t know about space junk and does nothing about it. Your are wrong… they know about it, and things are done.. perhaps not to your satisfaction, but to suggest the UN police space traffic is about as intelligent as having Iran police human rights.

    …so yes, you’re a putz.

  25. neil says

    we’re spending billions of dollars to do what? watch spiders hump in space?

  26. zeke says

    You’d think that women would be more careful with their purses.

  27. Mr. Obvious says

    You’re still a putz!
    You just confirmed what I said. The problem is known, and things are being done about it! However, the fact still remains whenever we launch something into space, we leave debris behind… this hasn’t changed yet.
    I never said there wasn’t a problem, but you were making accusations like nobody cared, or take responsibility… here, you give proof they are… like I stated they were.
    Of course NASA wants to do something about it… they have the most to lose… and they are probably putting more money into it than anybody else. Certainly the private companies aren’t going to… they cut costs to maintain competitive.
    So you want to yell at someone, don’t yell at NASA, yell at the private ventures throwing things into space. GET IT NOW… Putzie?

    BTW… I’m not a red neck American. However we can see by your rants…. all you do is hate. Apparently from some sort of inferiority complex. Begin to hate yourself… for deflecting your original stupidity with a bunch of postings.

  28. Frank Glover says

    “Also pleases to see the usual “so what” attitude of the NASA and the general media. Oops! Oh Dear. Doesn’t matter… Like Hell it doesn’t!”

    So, getting ticked off would accomplish…what?

    It becomes one more thing to track and watch out for. It was not intentional. Deal with it.

  29. Salacious B. Crumb says

    Solution : Keel haul her!

  30. RetardedFishFrog says

    Silver Thread hit on the right idea with the robots. They already the test robots on the station that move around using compressed air. They should use those things to retrieve the next piece of jetsam.

  31. Mike Jackson says

    “Note: Redneck Parochial Americans. I really do hate them…”

    Nice touch adding racial slurs to the conversation, asshole.

  32. Salacious B. Crumb says

    Mike Jackson Said:
    November 20th, 2008 at 11:29 pm
    “Note: Redneck Parochial Americans. I really do hate them…”
    Nice touch adding racial slurs to the conversation, asshole.

    Sorry. America is a country not a race. Hence calling me for stating a radical slur in inaccurate and clearly wrong.
    The truth is their are some Americans are indeed parochial to the extent that they consider the rest of the world as either insignificant or irrelevant. When they don’t get their way instead they act and spit poison like some Benzedrine puff adder either resorting to verbal insults or profanity.
    Again, thank you for your kind words.

  33. Mike Jackson says

    Well, I did not accuse you of using a radcial slur.

    Are you just acting stupid, or were you raised in ignorance and do not know the meaning of “redneck”: an ugly term used to describe whites?
    Or are you going to paraphrase Sen. Byrd and say that there are black rednecks too?

  34. Salacious B. Crumb says

    Mr Obvious
    Firstly, as to continued resorting verbal insults just makes you lose and credibility in this argument. At least I’m man enough just not to do the same.

    You also said “So you want to yell at someone, don’t yell at NASA, yell at the private ventures throwing things into space.”,

    As far as I know, no private venture has something place into low-earth orbit.

    Yet again this is just another example of “all care and no responsibility attitude”. Perhaps someone needs to yell at NASA and the American Media just to wake them up to reality.

    All I see is you are just wanting blaming every one else and avoiding the real responsibility regarding the American astronaut who did the deed. If it were a Russian, European or Chinese that did it, my response would be exactly the same.

    Note: You also fail to mention the same arrogant problem recently made by NASA who also threw into space the “Early Ammonia Servicer (EAS)”, which happened to fall over Australia and crash into its territory.
    (Read 3rd November 2008 “ISS Space Junk Re-Entered Without Incident, 550km South of Australia (Updated)”)
    Here we see the same usual careless insensitive American cultural attitude – who cares as long as it isn’t in my own backyard.

  35. Member
    Dale Ketcheson says

    This cracked me up! I heard this news just after watching an episode of the “Simpsons” where Homer won a trip in the space shuttle and caused a disaster by opening a bag of chips and then bumping into an ant-farm project releasing the ants into the shuttle!

    Imagine the possibilities for reality shows; “World’s most Fumbling Astronauts”.

    Despite the humour I found in this event, I greatly admire and respect the astronauts. This remarkable group of men and women are humankind’s representatives in space and eventually other worlds. Therefore, a little of all of us is up there.

  36. Salacious B. Crumb says

    Dale
    There is much truth in the words you say about astronauts and what they do. Their selection is as you say truly remarkable, and they are pick to be the brightest and most capable of most of humanity. No doubt the benefits of the risk outweighs what we have or might learn or technologically can for such exploration.
    Perhaps the issue here is not the astronauts per se but the general engineering procedures that have adopted by NASA – which historically have been sometimes a little less than perfect. If someone make an error it is more a system’s failure rather than folly or carelessness. Of course another argument might also be purely politically motivated – based on the constraints of budgetary and regulatory measures beyond the control of astronauts and the general public.
    In all, perhaps the seriousness of their “office” up there does need regulation and control to save its ability to use space by whoever wishes to explore this realm. It would be, however, a shame to loss it.
    (vulgarity amended)

  37. Steven says

    I just feel sorry for poor Heide.

  38. Will says

    I’d like to know who manufactured those two grease guns and the scraper that NASA paid 100K for.

  39. Frank Glover says

    “I mean, you could literally just put an object, where ever, and let it go, assuming it doesn’t have any outside force acting on it, it won’t probably go anywhere.”

    The problem is, it’s very hard to position something *exactly* motionless with ones’ self in free fall and vacuum. If there’s even the *slightest* residual motion when you let go, it will continue to drift in that direcrtion. Down here, friction of one kind or another covers that up.

    Remember whe we were considering a person getting ‘stuck’ in the midle of a large pressurized inclosure in space? In that case, air friction *will* tend to slow a gently moving object to a stop, espically if there’s no forced ventilation (though there likely would be…I recall that loose stuff in Skylab tended to end up at the ventilation intake screen).

    But outside the ship, only Newton’s laws, and perhaps infinitesmal radiation pressure apply (and even then, depending on the altitude of one’s orbit, there’s still minute traces of the atmosphere whose drag will *eventually* de-orbit stuff).

  40. Frank Glover says

    “Silver Thread hit on the right idea with the robots. They already the test robots on the station that move around using compressed air. They should use those things to retrieve the next piece of jetsam.”

    Why get even that involved? In situations like this (the crew is outside already, after all) they should always have thruster packs available to retrieve lost objects…or each other.

    It’s not as if we don’t have experience with such things….

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