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Failure To Tether

One of the astronauts lost a toolbag during EVA servicing:

Piper noticed that one of the two grease guns in her bag had exploded, spreading the dark, dry grease all over her camera and gloves. The grease, called Braycote, is a durable, non-flamable lubricant tough enough to handle the extreme temperatures and vacuum of space. It is needed to lubricate the cranky joint which has been grinding for more than a year.

In the midst of trying to clean up the mess, the bag of tools floated away from her. Views from a camera mounted on her helmet show it drifting slowly off towards the back of the station, some 200 miles above the earth.

"Oh, great," she exclaimed in frustration.

I assume that by "exploded" they just mean "escaped under pressure," and not literally a supersonic combustion.

A truly spacefaring nation would have a routine means of going and retrieving something like this. Instead, it becomes one more piece of space junk to track until it eventually enters the atmosphere, probably months or years from now.


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AJDiseker wrote:

Hopefully we won't have to wait until the 2070's...

The anime "Planetes" dealt with this, and postulated spacefaring companies would make money with "debris collector" divisions. The impetus for this was a disaster on a sub-orbital passenger ship that got holed by a loose screw. Very nice portrayal of space exploitation, spelling out the risks as well as the rewards of being a spacefaring species.

SteveS wrote:

"A truly spacefaring nation would have a routine means of going and retrieving something like this. "

Sounds like a job for a semi-autonomous space Roomba. "Rover, fetch me my tool bag!"

kert wrote:

"Sounds like a job for a semi-autonomous space Roomba."

Didnt they have a robotic sphere bot up there ?

Jardinero1 wrote:

You know, if it was her husband who did something like that, he would never hear the end of it.

David wrote:

I bet the FAA is wishing they had just left tethered testing alone now! ;-}

Karl Hallowell wrote:

Didnt they have a robotic sphere bot up there ?

I don't know if they still do. But it requires air pressure in order to move about.

JDS wrote:

If she's anything like my girlfriend she probably hot glued the tool bag to something and it didn't hold. Hot glue is the answer to everything.

Carl Pham wrote:

Frogs. Genetically engineered frogs that can stand hard vacuum, for a little while, and have enormously long and extra-sticky tongues.

Stephen Kohls wrote:

Do the Frogs have lasers on their foreheads?

George Skinner wrote:

A truly spacefaring nation would have lots of spare tools up there too- sounds like the mission may be impacted by the loss of one of the grease guns.

Number 2 wrote:

Dr. Evil, a Frenchman can withstand a hard vacuum. They carry one in their heads, and they do have enormously long and extra-sticky tongues. That's where the phrase "French Kiss" came from.

Big D wrote:

I'm not sure if the spaceballs (heh) ever made it to ISS (or even off the drawing board), but they were battery-powered and fan-driven, and therefore would just add to the space junk if tossed out the airlock.

kert wrote:

A quick google later,
They used compressed CO2 as propulsion, so yes it would work in unpressurized environment.

Josh Reiter wrote:

She looked like an average woman responding to a busted bottle of nail polish/makeup in the bottom of their handbag. Instant response is to just throw everything out of the bag and dump a baroque collection of items out on a table. Except, 'Oh sugar cookies!! I forgot about the orbiting the earth part. Sorry, blonde moment...'

*runs and hides from the pitchfork and torch laden feminist crowd*

Tom W. wrote:

Stephen Kohls wrote:
Do the Frogs have lasers on their foreheads?

If not, can they at least be ill-tempered Frogs??

Anonymous wrote:

NASA developed the MMU (Manned Maneuvering Unit), but hasn't flown one since 1984.

Of course, I'm sure thay'd have some kind of objections to nitrogen gas thrusters pulsing so close to areas of the ISS. So now they have to go to the expense of figuring out the orbit of this newest piece of space garbage, and whether or not it will pose a threat to anything in orbit. Sheesh

Carl Pham wrote:

OK, another idea. See, this is like dropping a small screw into the bowels of some complicated chassis on which you're working. You can see the damn thing, wedged in some crevice, poised over some hole from which it will never emerge, but how do you grab it?

Some would say needle-nose pliers, but that's not going to work in space. It's hard enough maneuvering those things without thick astronaut gloves. Besides, you'd probably just drop the pliers, and then we've got two problems. Then there's those long flexible grabber thingies, but it would be dangerous to have something like that waving around near the station. Who knows what you might hit? Plus most astronauts are men, and it's just going to look so wrong on NASA TV, with him waving this forty-foot snaky thing around in front of the nation. The US would lose so much world respect, we'd have to elect two more black Presidents to get it back.

But as everybody knows, if you want to find some small irreplaceable part and suck it up into oblivion, the vacuum cleaner is the ne plus ultra. So why not have a convenient vacuum hose attached to the outside of the station? If you "drop" something, you can just turn on the vacuum, point the hose at it, and voila! suck it back into reach.

The best part is, you don't even really need to power it! Since outer space is a vacuum, you just need to open up the end of the tube near the space station, and the vacuum will start sucking like crazy. Woo hoo!

ken anthony wrote:

You've lost it Carl ;-)

One day they'll figure out to use enclosed hangers (under pressure or not) to avoid things just floating off. The hanger doesn't need much structural strength, just a simple frame and some saran wrap.

Frogs with freakin lasers isn't such a bad idea either.

Habitat Hermit wrote:

Spherikal robotic sphere bot haz no arms

About the vacuum-hardened genetically engineered frogs with enormously long and extra-sticky tongues and forty-foot snakes I think Carl has overdosed on Japanese animation ^_^

Josh Reiter wrote:

I remembered seeing a documentary about the Boba Fett looking repair robot that NASA has been developing and explained that its lineage was related to a small experiment that was done on an earlier flight. It was a basketball sized, spherical robot that was controlled from the arm operators position. They detached it from the cargo bay and flew it around a little bit and brought it back. It was canceled due to cost restraints but I think its hopeful purpose was to be some kind of assistant or astro-mech for the space station. It would have been able to fly out real quick and snag that bag. Hell it would have helped with Shuttle tile inspection too.

I tried to look through shuttle mission histories but payloads have such mysterious acronyms. Of course, I was looking for something like BALLZORZ-1. But alas, those nerdy NASA types can't come up with such kick ass names.

kert wrote:

>>Spherikal robotic sphere bot haz no arms

But they DO have velcro "docking ports", and they have demonstrated docking to uncooperative tumbling target.

Sadly, the current prototypes up there dont have thermal design to survive outside :/

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on November 18, 2008 2:24 PM.

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