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back to article Toothbrush fixes ISS’ stuck bolt

The International Space Station has hosted its first “maker fair”, with astronauts Akihiko Hoshide and Sunita Williams spending last weekend fashioning tools to fix the power module’s jammed bolt. Last week, the astronauts found themselves unable to get one of the two bolts needed to mount the power switching unit to tighten …

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How dare they!

My idea of using a BFH would have been so much faster. Although, I'm not sure how effective that would have been in a zero G environment. But you don't know until you try!

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Headmaster

Pedantic Science

There is no such thing as zero G environment - in this Universe anyway.

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Boffin

Re: How dare they!

Lack of gravity doesn't matter as long as you can exert a force on the hammer, so that it accelerates in the direction of the bolt onto which it should transfer its kinetic energy. And even when you don't have a solid grip on the fixture you're hammering the bolt into (causing you to be propelled backwards due to the balance of forces), you'll only be accelerated in proportion with your mass against the mass of the hammer

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Anonymous Coward

fashioned out of a toothbrush fixed to a pole

Was that fixed in place with duct tape? Not a proper job is it wasn't.

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Somebody's going to come home with really yucky teeth.

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Trollface

They can fashion a toothbrush out of a disused torque wrench.

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or a loo brush...

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B-D
Mushroom

Prior art

I seem to recall in 2000 or so a solar panel stuck during unfurling and a makeshift non conductive poker was used to help unjam the concertinas, the kinetic energy from the unfurling was not dispersing but rather traveling up and down the panel like a wave.

A couple of ablative heatshield panels were repaired on the Discovery orbiter using caulk and a couple of scrapers in 2006.

During 2007 a medical stapler was used to fix a wayward heat shield blanket on the Atlantis orbiter that had torn during flight.

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Prior art?

It didn't involve any extra-vehicular repairs, but there was this little accident aboard Apollo 13...

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Re: Prior art

Or you know quite a bit further back. Neil Armstrong (RIP) and Buzz Aldrin almost never left the moon. An Interview with Buzz Aldrin:

Is it true that a pen saved your life when you and Neil Armstrong tried to lift off from the moon?

Yes, a writing instrument was used to engage the engine arm's circuit breaker, which had broken off after our moonwalk. There were perhaps many other ways of ensuring engine ignition. Liftoff from the moon was obviously essential for our survival, though. I guess that's the master of understatements!

(Source: http://teacher.scholastic.com/space/apollo11/interview.htm)

There's quite a bit documenting that

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Alien

Robots? pah!

This is why manned spaceflight matters.

Get on with it lads!

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OK, that's it

The next rocket to go up should be sponsored by B&Q..

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Flame

Okay, but what are they going to fashion the flamethrower from?

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Damn

Next time you grab a can of WD40, remember how easy you have it :-)

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Bronze badge

I do love the way that no matter how much was spent on something nowadays, and how modern the technology and design, eventually the equivalent of a man with a hammer and some duct tape has to go fix it.

Hell, even back in the 70's a complete failure of a critical unit onboard a spacecraft could be repaired and the crew saved by some homebrew technology.

It does seem that the human race is pretty incapable of providing a device that not only works, but has included tools enough and design enough to fix it even if it doesn't. I think that's the biggest difference between nature and man - nature actually provides things that heal, fix, repair, rebuild, regrow, regenerate, compensate, etc. and we just rely on being able to fashion some kind of tool that will bodge it enough until we can replace the whole damn unit.

It's probably going to be our next "era" - technology that repairs itself. More environmentally-friendly, less resources used, longer-lasting devices and the ability to cope with extreme situations with no assistance. But I think we have to find a way to get rid of the business plans behind such projects first, because such devices aren't conducive to direct profit.

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Anonymous Coward

That's a long wait for the 'happy ending'.....

"After four-and-a-half hours, ....., with Williams wiggling the bolt while Hoshide tightened it."

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Lack of tools?

C'mon guys, if you can't fix it with an angle grinder or a lump hammer it's time to abandon ship.

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crappy toolbox....

everyone knows the first rule of stocking a toolbox is the essentials...

if it is supposed to move and doesn’t = WD40

if it moves and is not supposed to = Duck Tape

the next essential bit of kit is the targeted variable force pummel ....

everything eles is optional....

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Re: crappy toolbox....

If you don't want to scare people over the radio, refer to it as "percussive maintenance".

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Megaphone

Forgot the last one....

doesn't move and isn't supposed to: paint it!

//good job, those men!

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Re: crappy toolbox....

I prefer "Kinetic Recalibration"

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Resourcefulness

It's this kind of resourcefulness that makes me think we should just bloody well get on and go to Mars and cope as best we can when we get there. It's the history of human evolution and migration - go somewhere and try to survive.

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Pint

Re: Resourcefulness

"It's this kind of resourcefulness that makes me think we should just bloody well get on and go to Mars and cope as best we can when we get there"

this sort of resourcefulness has pretty much been lost to the younger generations. Everything is handed to them on a plate. If things break, just replace it with a new one is the current mantra....

things like meccano, lego and airfix models have been replaced with smartphones fondleslabs and games consoles. they get lessons on how to pass an exam and still have no clue on the subjects they have supposed to have learned. that along with a nanny state telling us what’s good for us we have lost the ability to think for yourself and work a problem out..... todays solution is to just replace it..... but that’s a little difficult on the ISS....

about as resourceful as they get these days is to carry a spare battery for your phone, and its a sorry state really when improvising an abrasive brush makes the news. I have a feeling that if the world was not in such a poor state of economics that they would have just sent up a new nut and bolt ...

hats off and pass those guys a beer from me when they get back for using the resources available to fix stuff....

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Re: Resourcefulness

Yes, humanity should be on Mars by now.

And who knows what will be found hidden there.....

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Silver badge

Fixed to a pole?

Fixed to an inanimate carbon rod!

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TRT
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'Blow away the debris'

Which will no doubt catch them up in a few orbits and pepper shot the capsule.

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Coat

A pole in space? With a toothbrush affixed?

I knew it! They snuck a Polish builder onto the ISS for those impossible repairs. I need to how know how they fixed the toothbrush to him though.

Mine's the one with "Polish for astronauts" in the pocket. OK, OK I'm going...

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Joke

Four hours to tighten a bolt?

Sounds like typical labour time at a Halfords MOT and Service Centre.

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4 and a half hours to tighten a bolt...

...they must be trainee plumbers or mechanics. And I suppose there was parts charged as well as labour.

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Re: 4 and a half hours to tighten a bolt...

You wouldn't BELIEVE the call-out charge for that distance...

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Happy

Re: 4 and a half hours to tighten a bolt...

...they must be trainee plumbers or mechanics.

No, union plumbers paid hourly.

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Joke

Hmmm.

If the toothbrush tool hasn't helped fix that bolt properly and it falls off causing accidents in later years, the resulting investigation and scandal will probably be called...

Colgate.

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Pint

Expedition 32, the crew of Apollo 17 salutes you...

http://www.ninfinger.org/models/lrv_review/a17-137-20980.jpg

...not to mention the crew of Skylab 2:

http://www.astronautix.com/graphics/0/10076167.jpg

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What?!

I never leave my earthbound dominium without a Leatherman and a MagLite strapped to my belt and a roll of tape in my pocket. Receiving some amusement at times for this habit but more often i put it to good use. So NASA sends there heroes up ther bare naked?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What?!

I'm the same, I have a Leatherman with extra tool heads on my belt 99% of the time, and usually a torch plus a few paper clips.. You can never under estimate what can be fixed with a few paper clips bent into the right shape....

Duct tape and WD40 stays in the car, which is usually not far away!

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