Toothbrush helps save the day for astronauts on space station

Published: Thursday, Sept. 6 2012 1:39 p.m. MDT

FILE - This Feb. 16, 2001 file photo provided by NASA, shows the International Space Station as it orbits the Earth. American and Japanese astronauts utilize simple household tools to make a critical repair to exterior of International Space Station Wednesday September 6, 2012.

NASA, FILE, Associated Press

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The International Space Station cost more than $100 billion to construct and maintain. But Wednesday, a toothbrush and homemade wire cleaner were the key tools in resolving a week-long drama surrounding an uncooperative bolt that would not fasten to the space station’s exterior.

“NASA astronaut Sunita Williams and Japanese spaceflyer Akihiko Hoshide performed today's spacewalk repair — their second excursion outside the space station in less than a week,” Denise Chow wrote Wednesday for space.com. “The fix-it job in space was actually an extra spacewalk tacked on to their mission after the stuck space station bolt prevented the astronauts from properly installing the power unit, called a main bus switching unit, on the outpost's backbone-like truss last week on Aug. 30.”

Sci-tech-today.com’s Marcia Dunn reported, “Engineers on the ground and the astronauts in orbit scrambled over the weekend to devise makeshift tools to clean metal shavings from the socket of the troublesome bolt, after last week's failed effort to plug in the new power-relay unit. This time, NASA's Sunita Williams and Japan's Akihiko Hoshide were armed with a blue toothbrush, a wire brush and other jury-rigged tools.”

Reuters detailed the importance of repairing the main bus switching unit: “The unit is one of four needed to route power from eight solar array wings to transformers that distribute electricity to run the $100 billion orbital outpost. The old unit was routing power but was not fully operational. Without the new unit installed, the station could not get power from two of its eight solar panel wings.”

Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Amy Hubbard noted NASA astronaut Williams “reportedly holds the record as the woman with the longest space flight: 195 days. She's also now the woman with the most experience walking in space. With Wednesday's outing, Williams broke the record for time spent spacewalking by a female astronaut, NASA spokesman Josh Byerly confirmed Thursday.”

J.G. Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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