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Astronaut loses tool bag during spacewalk

  • Story Highlights
  • An astronaut lost a tool bag Tuesday during a spacewalk outside the space station
  • The lost bag was floating clear of the station and drifting further away into space
  • The astronaut shared tools with another spacewalker after the mishap
  • The lost tool bag should not be too much of a problem, NASA says
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By Kate Tobin
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(CNN) -- Things didn't go quite according to plan for astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper during her spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Tuesday.

First, a grease gun inside her tool bag leaked, coating everything inside with a film of lubricant.

While she was trying to clean it up in the absence of gravity, the whole bag floated away.

Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve Bowen were outside the space station on the scheduled six-hour spacewalk, the first of the space shuttle Endeavour's stay at the station.

After completing a few preliminary tasks, Stefanyshyn-Piper was beginning the job of cleaning and lubricating the gears of the station's malfunctioning starboard Solar Alpha Rotary Joint, or SARJ, when she discovered the grease gun leak and then lost the bag.

Lost in space

Other examples of astronauts accidentally adding to the thousands of pieces of junk already in space:

-- During a September 2006 spacewalk, astronaut Joe Tanner, accidentally released a bolt, spring and washer.

-- During a July 2006 spacewalk, astronauts Piers Sellers and Michael Fossum lost a 14-inch spatula while testing a method to repair the space shuttle.

-- During a December 1998 spacewalk, a thermal cover and two tools escaped from astronaut Jerry Ross.

From The Associated Press

The starboard SARJ is designed to allow the solar panels on the left side of the station to rotate and track the sun.

It started malfunctioning soon after it was installed, and astronauts soon determined the gear assembly is full of metal shavings, a sure sign that metal is grinding on metal.

Cleaning and lubricating the starboard SARJ is a time-consuming job, and will take several spacewalks to complete.

When finished, the joint should be partially functional again. More extensive repairs are planned for the future.

Stefanyshyn-Piper was able to share tools with Bowen, and NASA mission controllers expressed confidence that the lost tool bag would not be too much of a problem for the duration of the spacewalk.

Mission controllers were also tracking the lost bag, which they say is floating well clear of the station and drifting further away.

As the action unfolded outside, the astronauts inside the shuttle-station complex started unloading gear from a huge trunk that was brought up by Endeavour, The Associated Press reported.

The big-ticket item -- and one of the first things to be hooked up -- is a recycling system that will convert astronauts' urine and sweat into drinking water, AP reported.

It is essential if NASA is to double the size of the space station crew to six next June.

Endeavour also delivered an extra bathroom, kitchenette, two bedrooms, an exercise machine and refrigerator that will allow space station residents to enjoy cold drinks for the first time, AP reported.

The additions -- coming exactly 10 years after the first space station piece was launched -- will transform the place into a two-bath, two-kitchen, five-bedroom home, AP reported.

All About Space Shuttle EndeavourNASA

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