Wrenching on the Moon

December 17, 2009

Wrenching on the Moon

Astronauts take a lot of shit for basically having the same job as a Russian dog, but before you punch your next astronaut, consider this tale from Wikipedia:

The fender extension on the Apollo 17 Lunar Rover broke when accidentally bumped by Eugene Cernan with a hammer handle. The crew taped the extension back in place, but due to the dusty surfaces, the tape did not adhere and the extension was lost after about one hour of driving, causing the astronauts to be covered with dust. For the second EVA, a replacement “fender” was made with some EVA maps, duct tape, and a pair of clamps from inside the Lunar Module - nominally intended for the moveable overhead light. This repair was later undone so that the clamps could be brought back inside for launch.

That is insane. Astronauts all loading Capri Sun-shaped Miller Lites into their spacesuits’ Personal Drink Systems before heading back out to the Rover. One astronaut doing all the work while the other one stands over him saying, “Oh? You’re using a #6 space wrench on that? I’d’ve probably gone with a #4.” The fact that the astronauts brought duct tape to the moon. Mad Men has painted a pretty bleak picture of American men of the 60s, but those Camel Filter-smoking buzzcuts had enough practical sense to put a couple rolls of duct tape in the spaceship they were building, just in case.

The Wikipedia article about the LRV goes on to mention that NASA built a spare rover that they ended up using as a parts car. Presumably stashed under a tarp in the back lot of NASA, NASA’s wife complaining every few months about how long its been sitting there. I never realized it before but NASA is basically a middle-aged baby boomer dad. Born in the 1950s, raised on comic book dreams of exploring deep space in a rocket ship, NASA showed a lot of promise as youngster. As NASA grew up, everyone told it to be realistic, focus on practical things closer to home: Velcro, Tang, pens that work upside down. Sure, it was taking care of its responsibilities, but its dreams faded away. Where did the last three decades go? One day it shows up out of nowhere with a sporty little car that can drive on Mars, it says the van is too old and besides it doesn’t need it anymore. Jeez, mid-life crisis much, NASA? Now, it spends all its time doing fix-up work on an expensive second home it can’t really afford, and never gets to spend any time at anyway.

( via wikipedia)

That spare rover used to be just parked in the driveway. Putting it in back and covering it with a tarp was a compromise.

But it makes the yard look like space rednecks live here.