Lost in space: debris shield bag floats away from astronauts during ISS spacewalk

US cosmonauts were halfway through their mission to prepare a docking port for upcoming commercial space taxis when they lost a suitcase of equipment

A 1.5 m( 5ft) dust shield being installed on the International Space Station has floated away during a spacewalk by two veteran US astronauts.

Peggy Whitson, who became the worlds most experienced female spacewalker during the course of its outing, told ground command teams that a suitcase containing the dust shield swam away at about 10 am EDT/ 1400 GMT on Thursday.

At the time, Whitson, 57, and station commandant Shane Kimbrough, 49, were about midway through a planned 6.5 -hour spacewalk to prepare a docking port for upcoming commercial space taxis and to tackle other upkeep tasks.

It was the eighth spacewalk for Whitson, who excelled the 50 -hour, 40 -minute record total cumulative spacewalk period by a female cosmonaut previously held by Nasa astronaut Sunita Williams.

Cameras on the station tracked the dust shield bag as it sailed into the interval. Nasa told engineers defined it posed no security threat to the cosmonauts or to the facility, a $100 bn research laboratory that pilots about 250 miles( 402 km) above Earth.

No other details were immediately available about how the shield, which weighs 8 kg, was lost.

Teams are focused on completing the( spacewalk) and will review the events as they unfolded after it is completed, Nasa spokesman Dan Huot wrote in an email.

Whitson and Kimbrough were working on a docking port that will eventually be used by space taxis being developed by Boeing and privately owned Space Exploration Technologies.

The pair installed three other dust shields during their spacewalk and fitted a temporary cover-up over the docking port where the lost shield would have gone.

While not a perfect fit, the cover-up will help protect the station from the effects and supply thermal shielding, Nasa said.

Spacewalkers occasionally lose tiny pieces like nuts and screwings, but rarely do large objects steal away. The last-place such occasion was in 2008 when an cosmonaut lost maintain of her tool suitcase while struggling with a jammed solar panel.

The lost debris shield will eventually be drew back into Earths atmosphere and burn up. Until then, it joins more than 21,000 other articles of orbiting litter and debris that are big enough to be tracked by radar and cameras on Earth.

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