A spacewalking astronaut added to the millions of pieces of junk orbiting Earth, losing a small mirror on his sleeve as soon as he emerged from the International Space Station for battery work. Commander Chris Cassidy said the mirror quickly floated away. The lost item posed no risk to either the spacewalk or the station, according to NASA.
While millions of pieces of space debris orbit Earth, more than 20,000 items including old rocket parts and broken satellites are big enough to be tracked in order to safeguard the space station and working satellites. Spacewalking astronauts wear a wrist mirror on each sleeve to get better views while working. The mirror is just 5-by-3 inches, and together with its band has a mass of only one-tenth of a pound. The mirror came loose in darkness. Cassidy inspected his spacesuit sleeve later in sunlight but didn’t see any clues that might explain how the mirror came off. The rest of the six-hour spacewalk went without incident.
Cassidy and Bob Behnken hustled through the first of four planned spacewalks to replace the last bunch of old station batteries. They removed five old batteries and installed two new ones, which were checked out fine, getting a jump on their next spacewalk. They have four more to plug in before the job is complete. “I think we’ve done enough for one day,” Behnken said.
Once all the new batteries are installed in the coming weeks, the orbiting lab should be good for the rest of its life, according to NASA. The big, boxy batteries coming out, which are more powerful and efficient than the old ones, keep the station running when it’s on the night side of Earth.