Nov
20
2008

On the internet, nobody can hear you plagiarize. Also, astronauts.

You can't hear her: But I think I can see the gold foil blistering off of her face guard.
You can't hear her: But I think I can see the gold foil blistering off of her face guard.Courtesy NASA
***Apparently MDR already wrote this post a few days ago. Either he and I are just on the same wavelength here, or I totally copied him without realizing it. Er... oops.***

In space, no one can hear you say G%#@&^$ [email protected]&%&!#^@&!

Remember the modifications planned for the International Space Station that would allow resident astronauts to drink their own pee (among other things)? Well, early this week, visiting astronauts from the space shuttle Endeavor were actually doing that work (among other work) on the ISS. Things went pretty smoothly, over all, except that one of the astronauts dropped her tools. Outside of the station. In space.

Whoops.

Normally this isn’t a big deal, of course. It is estimated that working people across the country spend as much as 30% of their time dropping tools of one variety or another. (It’s only 9:40, and I’ve already dropped a video camera, a laptop computer, and my toothbrush—all in the toilet! How did that happen?) In space, however, things are a little different. It’s not exactly like a Loony Toons situation, where the space tools would fall to Earth in a deadly rain of super-sonic, flaming wrenches—the ISS is in orbit, and so the dropped tools stayed in orbit. That means that the astronaut’s two grease guns, putty knife, and briefcase-sized tool bag have all become space junk.
What happens when space junk hits something?: This happens. This is the "energy flash" from a 17,000 mph projectile hitting  solid surface. This test was performed by NASA to simulate what happens when a piece of space junk hits a spacecraft in orbit.
What happens when space junk hits something?: This happens. This is the "energy flash" from a 17,000 mph projectile hitting solid surface. This test was performed by NASA to simulate what happens when a piece of space junk hits a spacecraft in orbit.Courtesy NASA

“Space junk” is a term for the growing cloud of man-made debris orbiting our planet—everything from flecks of shuttle paint, to spent rocket stages, to grease guns, putty knives, and tool bags. Items like these may sound pretty innocuous, but a grease gun traveling at a few thousand miles an hour is really dangerous. Space debris is so dangerous, in fact, that the ISS is now armored to help protect it from orbiting junk, and that the a planned launch of the space shuttle Atlantis in October, 2008, had a 1 in 185 chance of “catastrophic impact” with debris.

Whoops.

NASA technicians are scrambling to develop new methods of scrubbing the swearwords out of the astronaut’s space suit, but they remain cautiously optimistic that the equipment will eventually be reusable.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

mdr's picture
mdr says:

Wasn't this headline (and story) already used in an earlier post?

posted on Thu, 11/20/2008 - 1:05pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Wow. Sorry about that.

Okay. I don't think I read that one, or maybe I'm losing my mind. I watched Alien last night, and saw this story today. But that's kind of embarrassing.

A change is in order.

posted on Thu, 11/20/2008 - 1:27pm
mdr's picture
mdr says:

I'm much more interested in monetary compensation.

posted on Thu, 11/20/2008 - 1:35pm
Thor's picture
Thor says:

Before this mission, the local media was making a big deal about one of the astronauts being from Minnesota. It turns out she was the one who dropped the tools.

posted on Thu, 11/20/2008 - 1:37pm
ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

I am just glad they have redundancy (another set of tools). They will now share.

posted on Thu, 11/20/2008 - 2:13pm
Jackie Rabideau's picture
Jackie Rabideau says:

Wow, how did so much man-made junk into space?

posted on Thu, 11/20/2008 - 10:16pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Well, clearly people drop things up there from time to time, but there are also things up there like old satellites, and pieces of rockets (parts of rockets are supposed to detach from spacecraft after they're done burning), slag from rockets (slag is just crusty burned stuff from rockets), or anything that breaks off a spacecraft. I guess it just all adds up after a while.

posted on Fri, 11/21/2008 - 9:52am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Coudl this be some kind of Cylon plot?

posted on Mon, 11/24/2008 - 8:26am
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Possibly. Their ways are very subtle, after all.

posted on Mon, 11/24/2008 - 10:08am
Free Gold's picture
Free Gold says:

I got confused with the title, too.

Space junks are junks. And they will add up eventually.

Our ancestors didn't know before what we knew now about the world's wastes. Same thing could happen in outer space.

posted on Mon, 11/24/2008 - 3:49pm

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