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How Duct Tape Saved Apollo 17's Moon Buggy 203

Posted by timothy
from the these-pictures-clearly-faked dept.
Ant points out a story spotted on Boing Boing in which NASA "shares a story that turns back the clock 36 years to reveal the "key roll of duct tape in the Apollo program." The quality of the photographs from the moon always grabs me, and the duct-taped fender here is no exception.
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How Duct Tape Saved Apollo 17's Moon Buggy

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  • Duct Tape (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maz2331 (1104901) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @11:23AM (#23159718)
    It just proves the old adage that "If you can't fix it with duct tape, then it's broken."

    • Re:Duct Tape (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @11:27AM (#23159796)
      Actually that's not entirely true. A few years ago we were working in the field in the Arctic. I stumbled down a hill and broke my arm. The satellite phone wasn't working at the time, so our solution was to make an elaborate splint made entirely out of duct tape. It took 3 days to hike back to civilization but my arm didn't even need to be reset by the doctor.
    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @11:32AM (#23159860) Homepage
      Can we fix the broken CSS on the idle section with some duct tape?
    • by Schwartzboy (653985) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @11:38AM (#23159968)
      Actually, I thought that it went "If you can't duck it..." and then ends with a two-word suggestion that I'm very very glad they didn't have to do to the moon buggy. I would think that it'd be physically impossible to do and not at all fun unless the buggy was, in fact, really cute.
    • by peragrin (659227)
      Actually i had a weak air conditioner duct joint that I used duct tape to help hold together and it fell apart constantly.

      Duct tape is perfect for everything but Ducts.
      • by Amouth (879122)
        atual Duct Tape.. not the Duck Tape people think of as the gray tape.. is extreamly good on Duct's..
        • by ashitaka (27544)
          No, the only thing that should be used on ducts is aluminum tape. The shiny stuff.

          Don't you watch "Holmes on Homes"?
        • atual Duct Tape.. not the Duck Tape people think of as the gray tape.. is extreamly good on Duct's..

          And of course Duck Tape is extremely good on ducks!

          It's waterproof and shiny, so that covers functional and stylish... now if only they could do something about all the feathers stuck to it and the quacking... oh the endless quacking!

          I mean, it's TAPE people! Tape does not quack!
    • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @11:45AM (#23160070)
      light side, dark side, holds the universe together, blah blah blah. Unfortunately, George Lucas ruined this joke, since duct tape isn't made my symbiotic microorganisms living inside everything.
      • Boy! This slashdot page is really broken.
        [ABCDEFGHHJKLMNO]
        ^ That is the width of the comment entry field.

        Anyways, back off topic. I shuddered when I heard midichlorians. Then, in order to bring sanity back to the Star Wars universe, I decided that these midichlorians didn't *Generate* the force, they merely found beings who were strong with the force to be good habitats. So your midichlorian count mirrored your capabilities for using the force, but did not contribute towards it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by somersault (912633)
          I'm sorry to crush your dreams, but the force is purely a nepotistic force. Unless your dad was a Dark Lord of the Sith, the force will not be strong with you. The only thing you will be able to foresee is a life serving fries at McDonalds to the one handed children of Sith Masters.

          Actually, the midichlorians thing really got me too :( I like your explanation. Darn parasitic midichlorians..
        • by drsmithy (35869)

          Anyways, back off topic. I shuddered when I heard midichlorians. Then, in order to bring sanity back to the Star Wars universe, I decided that these midichlorians didn't *Generate* the force, they merely found beings who were strong with the force to be good habitats. So your midichlorian count mirrored your capabilities for using the force, but did not contribute towards it.

          I really don't get the angst against midichlorians. Why get so uptight about an attempt to come up with an actual explanation of th

          • Why get so uptight about an attempt to come up with an actual explanation of the force...?

            Because it sucks the mystique, the wonder, out of it. It's like having a magic trick explained to you. Once you see how it's done, the illusion is over.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Chris Burke (6130)
        light side, dark side, holds the universe together, blah blah blah. Unfortunately, George Lucas ruined this joke, since duct tape isn't made my symbiotic microorganisms living inside everything.

        Well at least now we know why he came up with them.

        He probably considered the duct tape joke to be infringing on his Star Wars IP rights, and since the courts wouldn't take him seriously, he took other steps.

        Well played, Lucas. Well played.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @11:59AM (#23160268)

      "If you can't fix it with duct tape, then it's broken."
      You forget about WD40.

      If it moves and is not supposed to, use Duct Tape.
      If it doesn't move and is supposed to, use WD40.

      If both of those fail, then I guess you can savely assume it's broken.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sayfawa (1099071)
      The technical expression I prefer is "If it's not duct, it's fucked"
    • Re:Duct Tape (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sm62704 (957197) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:21PM (#23160562) Journal
      Works on earth buggies, too. I can't count the number of times a coolant hose or a heater hose (coolant goes through the heater hose?) has gotten a hole and been patched with duct tape "to get to the auto parts store", and was still on the unreplaced hose when I sold or traded the car.

      It may be urban legend, but I heard the military calls it "hundred mile per hour tape" because once in some godforsaken jungle somewhere a helicopter broke a rotor (gunshot or something) and the mechanic duct taped it together, telling the pilot to "keep it under a hundred miles an hour".

      They used to seal ducts with the stuff.

      Has anyone ever taped ducks together with it?
      • Re:Duct Tape (Score:5, Interesting)

        by smellsofbikes (890263) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @01:08PM (#23161242) Journal
        I have taped a duck with duct tape. It was a pet duck that had been attacked by a dog and had a huge oozing wound on its back. We were trying to get bandages on it so it wouldn't get (as much) dirt and debris in the wound while it was healing, and gauze and medical tape wasn't enough. We used a combination of duct tape and vet wrap and basically made a sort of suit for the duck that wrapped around its chest and under its wings, to hold the bandages in place. It worked.

        Your coolant system patches must've used different duct tape than mine: the hot water melted the adhesive and it was leaking like a sieve in a dozen km. I managed to get home, barely.
        • by doomy (7461)
          Exactly same thing happend to me. I did the duct tape coolant pipe fix having heard about it from /. previously (oh boy).

          But 15 mins later it was leaking white smoke and driving the temp to max.

          In the end I just drove to the dealers with the heater on (to take the heat away from that area) and have them replace the faulty coolant pipes.
        • by jpellino (202698)
          Works on horses in a pinch. Vet wrap isn't much for a cut on the back when you're on the trail and the patient stands 15 hands. Of course we never let the rider live that one down.
      • It may be urban legend, but I heard the military calls it "hundred mile per hour tape" because once in some godforsaken jungle somewhere a helicopter broke a rotor (gunshot or something) and the mechanic duct taped it together, telling the pilot to "keep it under a hundred miles an hour".

        It's called "hundred mile an hour tape" because it will (according to legend) hold parts of aircraft on (like skin paneling) at speeds of up to a hundred miles an hours. (The submarine force sometimes calls it 'test depth

    • All space flights should have duct tape and a lowly carbon rod on board.
    • by xeoron (639412)
      UPS views anything taped up with duck-tape as broken, because it will likely get caught in there automated belt systems.
  • ObRedGreen Ref (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amccaf1 (813772) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @11:25AM (#23159756)
    Remember, if the aliens don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.
  • by dauthur (828910) <johannesmozart@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @11:27AM (#23159784)
    You can't hear duct tape rip in the vacuum of space. That is a sad fact.
  • Key Roll? (Score:3, Funny)

    by tit0.c (245434) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @11:32AM (#23159862)
    Key Roll of Duct Tape or Key Role?
    I guess both are valid...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Major Blud (789630)
      Depending on who you ask, I think it's "GNU/Tape".
    • by Chris Burke (6130)
      Heh, I read "Key Roll" and thought that meant that there was a special roll of duct tape they put on the Apollo missions for exactly such purposes, and while there may be other rolls on board, this one was the "Key Roll".

  • photos (Score:5, Informative)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @11:33AM (#23159890)

    The quality of the photographs from the moon always grabs me, and the duct-taped fender here is no exception.

    Medium-format sized negatives. Shitloads of light (large depth of field and high shutter speeds.) No atmosphere to bend light between subject and camera.

    Also, you've got really hard shadows because the light isn't diffused at all by an atmosphere.

    • Cameras (Score:4, Informative)

      by maz2331 (1104901) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @11:40AM (#23160002)
      Didn't NASA have a preference back then for Hasselblad medium-format cameras with really good Zeiss lenses?

      Pro-level gear with big film can give some really incredibly detailed photos.
      • Re:Cameras (Score:5, Informative)

        by smooth wombat (796938) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:23PM (#23160614) Homepage Journal
        Didn't NASA have a preference back then for Hasselblad medium-format cameras with really good Zeiss lenses?


        Yup. Swedish engineered camera with German lenses. Pretty much the best of both worlds. For your information [nasa.gov].

      • The interesting thing is, lately NASA has been primarily using [nasa.gov] relatively common digital SLR cameras. I'm not sure what modifications, if any, they've made. They do have thermal protection covers for EVA's, which are left off for photography from inside the station or shuttle.

        Most of the photos seem to be taken with Kodak DSC760's, a 6 MP camera dating back to 2001 that is limited to ISO400. Lately they've also started to use the newer 12 MP Nikon D2Xs.

        Granted, these are nicer than most ordinary Joe's
      • by dpilot (134227)
        When you're talking over $1000/lb shipping to the moon, the cost difference between cheap and the very best becomes minor. Then when you add in the penalty for failure, you clearly want only the very best.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by noidentity (188756)
      It's especially impressive considering the pictures were taken on Earth. *ducks*
  • by corsec67 (627446) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @11:35AM (#23159906) Homepage Journal
    I would say that the roll of tape [wikipedia.org] used on the Apollo 13 [wikipedia.org] was much more important.

    It is interesting to think about dust in a vacuum, where if it is kicked up with a large forward velocity, it will fall back down on you or even ahead of you, whereas on Earth it would get pushed behind you by friction...
  • by MichaelCrawford (610140) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @11:38AM (#23159960) Homepage Journal
    My father [geometricvisions.com] was a civil service engineer at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, where he worked on the electrical systems of submarines.

    One day he found a roll of duct tape lying around somewhere on a sub that was in for repair. It didn't appear as if anyone was using it.

    However, one was not permitted to just remove stuff left lying around - someone might still be needing it.

    So dad went through the proper channels, which involved filing a form in which he requested the removal of the duct tape. This had to be signed by his manager. I don't remember clearly, but maybe it had to be signed by his manager's manager.

    Once the paperwork was all squared away, someone was sent in to the sub to remove the roll of duct tape - only to find that it wasn't there anymore!

    Your tax dollars at work!

    • by MarkGriz (520778)

      Once the paperwork was all squared away, someone was sent in to the sub to remove the roll of duct tape - only to find that it wasn't there anymore!

      That just goes to show, given a choice between duct tape and red tape, choose the duct tape.

  • Roll or role?
  • If you've never used the new Gorilla Glue Duct Tape, go out to Lowes or Home Depot right now and get yourself a roll.

    It's more expensive, about $10 a roll, but it really is the best tape out there. I've used it seal stuff outdoors and a year later, it's still holding. If NASA doesn't take a few rolls of this stuff to the moon, they're not paying attention.
  • In the dorms at Porter College at UC Santa Cruz.

    I had him stand on a chair, then applied tape liberally. When I was all done, I removed the chair.

    He stayed up there for five minutes, but eventually had to come down as it was getting very uncomfortable.

    Another friend who was an art major made a tasteful arrangement of the leftover tape, stuck back on the wall where he had been. He then typed up a little sign that commemorated the event, and said that I was a conceptual artist who is often compared to

    • Ahh, the good old college days! I have a formula for a recipe for instant humiliation that myself and a group of lounge slackers made during my college years. 17 bored & tired college students in a lounge + 1:36am + 1 sleeping student in a chair + 1 roll of Duct Tape == Lawlz Basically, we were all tired and bored on a weekend when one of our friends fell asleep in a chair. One of us (not me sadly) pointed at the sleeping student and then pointed to a roll of duct tape on a desk... After we taped ou
  • Duct tape saved the day during Apollo 13 too, when they were having CO2 problems. Those guys jury-rigged the Lithium Hydroxide canister of the command-module (which were square), into the LEM(which had round canisters).
    Saved the day. Without it, the astronauts would have died of CO2 poisoning. Apparently, the design was so good, it became a standard emergency procedure in future missions.

    • Why not just make all lithium hydroxide canisters the same shape? Bah.. inventing zero-g pens when you can use a pencil and all.. always having to make everything so complicated!
      • I thought pencils could generate graphite dust, and splinters of broken graphite when points broke, and creating shavings which have to be stored when sharpened. Of course, I think the Russian space program found these troubles acceptable.
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @11:46AM (#23160092) Homepage Journal
    They also used duct tape to fix the stereo, so they could keep driving their moon buggies through our neighborhoods at all hours of the night playing that theme from "2001" real loud.
  • by arakon (97351) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @11:48AM (#23160134) Homepage
    I think we should go back a bit to that kind of space exploration. Boot-strap, Cowboy style. There are so many regs and safety issues with today's space program that with all the bureaucracy it's a wonder we get anything off the ground at all. Lets just start with some quantity, launch anything with a higher than 50% survival rate.

    How many people do you know that would jump on an opportunity for a manned mission to mars? Just to be the first to do it. Even if you don't make it, you'd still provide useful information and go down in history as a great pioneer. Hell there is a certain religion or two down here that have people clamoring all over their selves to die for some glorious amorphous cause. Put them to work. Launch those space monkeys up there so they can be closer to their [Deity].
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by joggle (594025)

      You know that's much more the old Russian style, not the US style. We were never so gung-ho that we would find a 50% survival rate acceptable. The US was very meticulous and careful during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. The only fatalities that resulted from the program were the Apollo 1 astronauts. After that, there was a huge delay as they did a thorough investigation into the cause of the accident and made many changes to make it safer (not using pure oxygen in the capsule, better wiring, made

    • How many people do you know that would jump on an opportunity for a manned mission to mars?

      Me! Let's go NASA. My bags are packed and everything is in order. I can leave on Sunday (have a yard sale on Friday and Saturday).

      Just to be the first to do it.

      My point exactly. I told my dad this same thing on our way back from a ham fest a month ago. I would love to be the first human to set foot on Mars. No traffic, no idiots to deal with, red women [wikipedia.org] to ogle. It would be a blast!

      go down in

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Dmala (752610)
        Yeah, that too. Just think, a statue of myself, arm outstretched, reaching for the stars. I'd probably have a high school named after me.

        Awesome. And I will totally send my kids to Smooth Wombat High.
  • by cwills (200262) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @11:53AM (#23160180)
    The three things you need to fix anything in the universe.
    1. Duct Tape
    2. WD-40
    3. A Hammer

    • If it moves and it shouldn't - use Duct Tape
    • If it doesn't move and it should, use WD-40
    • If neither of those work, use the hammer
  • removes warts. Or so I hear.
    • This does work; I removed two plantar warts from my feet using duct tape (in Iraq, no less- my boots were agravating the condition.

      Use about a dime-sized patch on the wart. You can cover over that with surgical tape if you need to keep it from rubbing off. Change the tape each day, but leave it on 24/7 other than that. It took me about 2 1/2 weeks to completely remove the wart.

      This was about a year ago, and it has not come back. There is also some actual medical research that supports this.
      http://www.cbsnew [cbsnews.com]
  • ...use more duct tape!

    -- Red Green
  • Why are there no tracks before or after that tire?

    Was the photo just after assembly, but before movement?

    There's an astronaut sitting in it, how could he possibly wait for a photo shoot before hitting the gas?

    I would expect more footprints around the thing if it were just after assembly.
    • by hcdejong (561314)
      You'll notice that one of the footprints is half filled in with dust. Every step would move the dust around, that's probably what happened to the tire tracks as well.
    • by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:27PM (#23160662)
      Good observation.

      This is what I see in the photo [nasa.gov]: if you look at the front right wheel, you'll see an S-shaped trench leading away from it, going off-camera in the bottom-right of the image. You'll also notice that at the bottom-right of the image a footprint appears which seems to have significantly altered the trench. Actually it looks like it filled it in.

      The moondust is very light and prone to redistribution (that's the whole point of TFA, in fact), so perhaps just stepping near a tire-track is enough to fill in the trench (after the dust settles)? If so, then when you look at the back-right wheel, you'll see that there are footprints there which may have disturbed the ground and filled in the trench from the wheel (especially since he would have had to walk all over the place near that wheel while performing the repair). Actually there are some faint indications of where a track may have once been.

      I'm certainly no expert in these kinds of things, but it seems to me that working near the vehicle would quickly disturb any tracks, because of how light the rocks and dust are on the moon.
  • ...it has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

    rj

    • Duct tape [uncyclopedia.org]

      "Silence is golden, duct tape is silver coincidence, I think NOT!" ~ Oscar Wilde

      Duct Tape has amazing adhesive propertiesDuct Tape is the preferred material for Tuxedo construction. It is also a mystical force with a light side and a dark side. It is said to bind the Universe together, and this, combined with the moral duality of the substance, has made it a coveted object of power and worship among several religions, including the Druids(otherwise known as Jedi.) In fact, the bible states that on

  • by Jugalator (259273) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:10PM (#23160410) Journal
    The Lunar Surface Journal over here: (more specifically on the Apollo 17 page of course)
    http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/alsj/frame.html [nasa.gov]

    Craploads of imagery from all surface missions, full transcripts, and audio. :)
    • by Jugalator (259273)
      OK, I found what's in this article now...

      On the Apollo 17 page -> The First EVA -> Flag Deployment and ALSEP Off-Load:

      118:51:20 Cernan: Oh, you won't believe it.
      118:51:25 Schmitt: You did it again.

      [Jack is guessing that Gene hit the wrong gravimeter button.]

      118:51:26 Cernan: No!! There goes a fender.
      118:51:28 Schmitt: Oh, shoot!
      ---
      118:52:06 Cernan: And I hate to say it, but I'm going to have to take some time to try...I'm going to have to try to get that fender back on.
      118:52:13 Parker: Okay. Was
    • Everybody knows we never went to the moon. That's a sound stage on Mars. Wake up people!!1!!

      (with apologies to xkcd [xkcd.com])

    • Gene Cernan, in the mission summary:

      "You know, it's kind of sad that in addition to all the other problems we'd have in going back to the Moon - like it's going to take twice as long as it did the first time (15 to 20 years versus 8) - I don't know that we have the mentality today to build upon what we did on Apollo. And it's sort of sad. Because if we went back again next week or next year or in another decade - which we probably won't, unfortunately, because it's going to be another generation - I don't k
  • by Ang31us (1132361) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:28PM (#23160682) Homepage
    Well, sort of...My housekeeper was cleaning and noticed (or perhaps caused) a hole about the size of a silver dollar in the drain pipe underneath my kitchen sink. The area around the hole was a corroded and basically everything that went down the drain ended up going out of the hole. I live in an apartment building where the super takes forever to fix things, so I had to come up with a stop-gap solution. First, I just put a bucket under it when I was just using water, but that was going to start to get really gross when I wanted to wash that night's frying pans, so I did not wash them that evening.

    The next morning, it hit me, I could wrap the pipe with duct tape to seal the hole and it worked! I cleaned my dishes, pots, pans and made pasta on Saturday; it even held up when I poured the boiling water down the drain.

    Not quite a NASA moon mission, but I did gain a new appreciation for duct tape.
  • by v1 (525388) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @01:01PM (#23161124) Homepage Journal
    I seem to recall the "Huston, we have a PROBLEM" mission (Appolo 13?) that they used duct tape to make the other CO2 filters mechanically compatible when they had to spend more time in orbit than they could manage just on the service module's filters. (one set was round and the other set was square)
  • Gaffa's better. (Score:3, Informative)

    by moosesocks (264553) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @01:08PM (#23161246) Homepage
    Gaffer tape is vastly superior to duct tape.

    Easier to tear, less residue, matte surface.

    Need I go on?
    • by SkyDude (919251)
      Gaffer tape is vastly superior to duct tape.
      Easier to tear, less residue, matte surface.
      Need I go on?

      It is, but it's about 4x-5x the price. Good ole' Duck tape can be bought for $4/roll US, but good gaffer tape is at least $19/roll or more.

      Besides, they only people that know the difference are AV types.

  • by owlnation (858981) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @01:08PM (#23161252)
    Try searching for "Moon buggy" in Wikipedia.

    And good luck with that. You'll turn up nothing but "articles" linked to commercial products. You have to use "Lunar Rover". (And it's an article ripped form a single source (albeit NASA))

    I wonder if someone could fix Wikipedia's search engine with duct tape? Though I suspect that it's far beyond that kind of repair.
  • The Hasselblads they had in the old days sure beat the crummy Nikons they use now.

    Would be funny to see if duct tape was on the payload manifest or if someone swapped their jelly bean allocation for it.

  • Wow this is a slow news day. I remember watching the duct tape thing live on TV back when it happened. This is not newly released information.

    The question everyone asked was "how coud you tear off a fender by brushing against it with a hammer?" the answer was the it and everything sent to the moon was very thin and only just strong enough to do it's job. The fender was only designed to deflect dust, not hammer handles. same with the skin of the lunar lander, Not much thicker then aluminum foil. As I

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