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Thread: astronaut loses $100,000 tool bag during spacewalk

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    Jon
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    astronaut loses $100,000 tool bag during spacewalk

    NASA astronaut and Navy captain Heidemarie Martha Stefanyshyn-Piper loses a tool bag during a 2008 spacewalk, while working on the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint in the International Space Station.



    It's enough of an accomplishment to discover space flight, successfully launch humans into orbit, and then construct a habitable space station. However, what's really impressive here is that someone could lose an entire bag of tools in space and restrain themselves enough to only utter: "oh, great". I do much worse when I drop a socket in an engine bay.

    The $100,000 bag of tools drifted away while Stefanyshyn-Piper was cleaning up a mess from a leaky grease gun that she was using to lubricate the joint's gears. The tool bag, dubbed "ISS Toolbag", achieved celebrity status as its exact location in orbit was monitored constantly by satellite tracking systems on Earth. Sightings were recorded by multiple skywatchers, included this video of the toolbag from Kevin Fetter:



    Legend has it that the $100,000 tool bag still orbits Earth to this day, waiting for the moment when an astronaut may have need for a NASA-issued grease gun...

    Actually, the bag burned up during re-entry in 2009.

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    Wasn't aware of the event, let alone the loss. But now for a little brag-fest. While employed at a Tool Co in Cypress CA, a pair of toolmakers (inc myself) made a set of hand tools, even linesman style box joint pliers of solid AMPCO beryllium. Most everything else we built for the shuttle if not 7075 Aluminum, was 455 Stainless. My favorite, latches for the deployment arms in the cargo bay. Basically a rectangular U shape with sear hooks on the inside edges. Couldn't have any transverse toolmarks. Other guys tried to mill and profile them and undercut the hooks with Woodruff cutters tilted 2.5 degrees. Heck no! Roughed them in vertical bandsaw, made contouring fly-cutters for inside radii and tool to quill broach the hooks. Ran faster than the quote. Tough material yet cut quite well. Trick was to mill close fit pockets in soft jaws, to immobilize the part with lowest possible jaw pressure. Too many forget the power of the vertical bandsaw, why cut chips when you can cut chunks?
    Last edited by Toolmaker51; 10-01-2016 at 10:09 AM.
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    I have to ask why anyone built a rotary joint that had to be greased with a grease gun from the outside of the space station. You don't grease ships propeller shafts or rudder stocks from the outside. With the huge risks involved, surely they could have come up with a better way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Moby Duck View Post
    I have to ask why anyone built a rotary joint that had to be greased with a grease gun from the outside of the space station. You don't grease ships propeller shafts or rudder stocks from the outside. With the huge risks involved, surely they could have come up with a better way.
    I can't directly answer your question but I can offer some informed thoughts.

    It costs roughly $10,000 to orbit one pound of mass to low earth orbit. As a consequence, structures are minimized as much as possible. Providing the necessary structure so a man can reach the joint might incur an unacceptable weight penalty. Moreover, any such structure would have to be man-rated and that involves extensive and immensely expensive ground testing to guarantee safety.

    On an earth-bound vehicle such as a ship, the structure that allows access to the joint may be part of the ship structure required to maintain its strength needed to withstand environmental loading. In space there is no gravitational or atmospheric loading so such strength structure can be minimized.

    Even a simple solution like a preloaded grease gun mounted at the joint and remotely activated by electronics might be too much of a weight penalty - especially so if there are a number of joints to grease.

    Considering the expense of losing the tool bag and the threat to other orbiting objects of such a massive item moving at 17,500 mph, a better solution would be to have the tool bag permanently connected to the astronaut's lifeline. I'm guessing that they're pretty damned careful that their lifeline is secured before they venture outside.
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    Astronaut Charlie Duke drops a hammer on the moon. He's unable to pick it up, and has to go retrieve some tongs. Apollo 16. April, 1972. 1:16 video:


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    Until we figure out a technology that will protect an astronaut from all of the extremes of space IE heat cold radiation low or zero pressure without having to be a hard suit that is akin to having to wear a submarine. clumsiness and limited mobility is going to be prevalent doing any task in space. It is not much different than deep water work. that Navy divers have to do in salvage operations
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    Perhaps the Astronaut selection process needs to include a section on manual dexterity and the use and value of hand tools in what is essentially a survival situation. That dropped hammer could easily have damaged his suit and that would not have been a good ending. In previous clips of Astronauts in weightless conditions I get the impression that they can jump very high and bounce around all over the place, even turn backward somersaults without any effort, but this guy seemed to be gravity challenged with his jumps. I also notice that the dust settles very quickly, whereas I would expect to see clouds of it hanging around. Just seems odd to me.
    p.s. I do believe that this was filmed on the Moon, I am not into the conspiracy theories.
    Last edited by Moby Duck; 06-09-2018 at 08:56 PM.

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    And I suppose they never heard of lanyards either
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    You are not weightless on the moon, it has gravity, it's just less than earth. The reason he is having trouble is not because of the gravity, it's the suit limiting his mobility. The weightless astronauts you have seen are not only in (almost) zero gravity, they are also not hampered by space suits.

    As to the dust, the reason dust clouds hang around here on earth is air currents, with no atmosphere on the moon the dust has nothing to hold it up so it falls to the surface as quickly as any other object would regardless of mass.

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    Technically he dropped the hammer in Arizona, whilst Spielberg filmed a moon landing scene. The hammer was $10 from Walmart.
    Smoke makes electronics work, if it escapes the equipment breaks.
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