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A toolkit is lost from ISS!


Anchored to a Canadarm2 mobile foot restraint, astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper participates in the mission's first spacewalk. NASA photo

WASHINGTON, DC (BNS): An astronaut carrying out cleaning and greasing of repairs at the International Space Station lost a big toolkit into the space. It is one of the biggest items to be lost from the ISS, but NASA has yet not said if the astronaut, US navy captain Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper was to be blamed for losing her bag containing tools such as two grease guns and scrapers.

Piper, who reached the ISS traveling aboard Endeavour, was taking part in the first spacewalk, part of the visiting shuttle's mission meant to give the orbiting space platform a significant makeover as it celebrates the 10th anniversary. On Thursday, ISS completes 10 years - its first component, the Russian Zarya module was launched on November 20, 1998.

The Endeavour mission's spacewalks and other activities would allow ISS to increase the residential crew compartment that would permit six, instead of three, to stay aboard the station and increase power production from solar energy and convert urine into drinking water.

At a press conference, flight director Ginger Kerrick told journalists that they were withholding judgment. He said NASA didn't know "this incident occurred because they forgot to tether something. We don't know if perhaps the hook just came loose inside the bag."

Kerrick told the journalists, "You've got to remember, we are working with humans here and we are prone to human error. We do the best we can, and we learn from our mistakes." He said precautions would be taken to prevent such problems in the future.

The mishap happened when Piper found that a grease gun had erupted inside the tote bag, and had messed up the entire bag. She was trying to clean up leaked grease, when the tool bag containing the two grease guns floated away. Astronauts strap everything item they use during spacewalk, but NASA officials pointed out that it was not uncommon for some items to be lost.

But this was probably the biggest item to be lost from ISS. It is the size of a briefcase. The ISS and Endeavour together had only two grease guns, and now the two have been lost.

During the Endeavour STS-126 mission, the astronauts will carry out four spacewalks to clean and lubricate a badly gummed up joint, so as to ensure that the solar wings are on the right side of the space station, pointed towards the sun. The trouble with the joint has resulted in the solar panel being sparingly used, leading to a drop in energy production in the space station.

The visiting crew on Wednesday also attached a new recycling system for converting urine into drinking water.

Endeavour, due to land back on Earth November 30, is the fourth and final shuttle mission of the year.



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