Items lost in space

HOUSTON Astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper proved that when she accidentally let go of her tool bag after a grease gun inside it exploded outside the international space station. The tote bag, containing two grease guns, a putty knife and cloth mitts, was one of the largest items ever to be lost by a spacewalker.

But Stefanyshyn-Piper isn't the first person to drop something in space. Bulky gloves and weightlessness have led to a history of some clumsy moments at NASA.

Here are some recent examples of astronauts accidentally adding to the thousands of pieces of junk already in space:

-- During a September 2006 spacewalk, astronaut Joe Tanner, working outside the space station with Stefanyshyn-Piper, 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 March 2001 spacewalk to mount important equipment to the international space station, a foot attachment used to anchor spacewalkers to the end of the space shuttle Discovery's robotic arm managed to float free from astronaut Jim Voss and was lost in space. Later in the mission, Discovery's thrusters had to be fired to move the spacecraft to a higher orbit to dodge the menacing piece of space junk.

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