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See a lost thermal shield zip ahead of the space station

A camera on Earth captures a fun video of an errant protective shield that escaped from the International Space Station.

Last week, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson set a new record for spacewalks by a female astronaut when she and International Space Station commander Shane Kimbrough floated outside the ISS. During the spacewalk, a thermal shield meant to be installed on the station got loose and floated away. Dutch astronomer Marco Langbroek managed to catch an impressive video of the shield cruising ahead of the ISS through space.

Langbroek posted the video on Wednesday. You can see the shield as a small streak of light cutting at an angle across the camera's view. The International Space Station follows its trajectory just under two minutes later and appears as a much larger ball of light.

The shield was one of four intended to protect the station's Tranquility module, which, among other things, houses control systems. The shields offer thermal protection and guard the module from micrometeoroids and debris in orbit. NASA notes the "loss posed no immediate danger to the astronauts."

The European Space Agency highlighted Langbroek's space-debris photography and says the shield should drop from orbit and burn up in Earth's atmosphere within a few months.

"The item poses very little risk to navigation, and an accidental release like this is not unexpected given the complexity and challenges of working outside during a spacewalk," said Holger Krag from the ESA's Space Debris Office.

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