Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Duct Tape is like the Force: It has a light side, it has a dark side and it keeps the Universe together

Don't leave Earth without it
A Times Editorial
Published August 5, 2005


Equipment inventories on future space shuttle flights will go something like this: Operational bioinstrumentation system. Check. High-rate dosimeter. Check. Antigravity suit. Check. Duct tape. Check.

That lowly household item came to the rescue again, this time in a very high-tech way when astronaut Stephen Robinson took his "honey-do" list into space to repair the shuttle Discovery. To prepare for the delicate maneuver of removing protruding filler material from between the craft's fragile heat-resistant tiles, the crew fashioned a hacksaw from a bent blade held in place by a wad of duct tape.

As it turned out, Robinson got the job done with an even more basic tool - the opposable thumb - by simply pulling on the paper-like material. Yet given NASA's level of competence these days, no astronaut crew should leave Earth without duct tape.

Those ubiquitous silver strips have proved useful in other unlikely situations. A United Airlines maintenance crew temporarily repaired small holes in the wings of three passenger jets with duct tape. When the Federal Aviation Administration found out, it wasn't happy, but by then the planes had made 193 flights without incident. And the Department of Homeland Security recommended duct tape for every home anti-biological warfare kit.

One reason for its popularity, notes Tim Nyberg, co-author of seven books on duct tape, "is it comes with absolutely no directions." So a hack saw made with duct tape in zero gravity sounds like good old American ingenuity.

Now really, DrH's VW bus is the same age as the space shuttle and it is little removed from a horse and buggy when compared with the latest Mercedes. But they'd throw that thing into space. Maybe they should give it to the European automobile industry to work on if they want something safe AND stylish. Perhaps a collaboration between Volvo and BMW?
Yet NASA has tentatively scheduled the next flight for September 22nd. I hope thats 2011.

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