A space blanket floated away from American astronaut Peggy Whitson on Thursday as she made a historic spacewalk outside the International Space Station, setting a new record for the most spacewalks by a woman.
The crew was not in danger due to the mishap, which occurred when Whitson was trying to fold up a bulky cloth cover, known as an axial shield, and put it in a bag.
The incident briefly raised concern at mission control in Houston that the shield might come back and hit the orbiting laboratory.
About four hours into the spacewalk, however, NASA determined that the gear had drifted a safe distance away and there was “no recontact risk,” said NASA commentator Gary Jordan.
Images on NASA television showed the shield as a small white dot in the darkness. A statement on NASA’s website said the shield “was inadvertently lost” and “posed no immediate danger to the astronauts.”
The space blanket was one of four covers designed to guard the station from micrometeoroids, and also for thermal protection.
To make up for the loss, Whitson and her colleague Shane Kimbrough retrofitted an existing cover outside the space station to serve in its place.