NASA Bets Astronaut Lives on Sewing Kit

Dennis Faas's picture

Since NASA routinely puts astronauts in space, you'd think the trip would be filled with all sorts of experiments dependent upon modern science and technology.

Surprisingly enough, however, it's technology failing the visitors to NASA's International Space Station, while extremely low-tech techniques are saving the day.

Blame Russia

The problems all started with an unreliable Russian navigation computer. The device hung up on the astronauts last Tuesday, causing a not-so-funny comedy of errors while engineers worked to open external solar blankets. Despite the hiccup, the solar technology (which is a large part of the crew's mission in space) opened successfully. (Source:

NASA has other work to attend to and it's turning to a less-than-modern technique to fix a thermal blanket which was peeled back during launch last week.

So, fancy and expensive tools to work, no?

Not exactly.

Houston is uncomfortable leaving the equipment in its current state, initially extending the astronauts' tenure in space for another two days while repairs were made. The date's been changed back, although you certainly couldn't blame the astronauts for holding their breath.

Although one might expect million-dollar space tools to be carefully pulled out from the billion-dollar space tool box, instead astronauts used a simple sewing kit and steel thread. They've attempted to hold the blanket in place with a surgical staple or two.

Sounds like the space equivalent of duct-taping the gas cap back on an '88 Tercel.

Despite worries and a primitive repair job, Houston believes the graphite underneath the blanket should protect the astronauts during re-entry. (Source:

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