Tag Archives: george zamka

How Home Ownership is like Space Travel

Home ownership, for me, is a series of duct-tape moments. I can never seem to stay on top of everything that breaks. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know I have home ownership issues. You may recall my Door Jam Saga last year.

Yesterday was a duct-tape day for me.

Roll of Duct Tape

It all started when I opened the door to the built-in microwave oven. The door handle splintered. Really? I just replaced the refrigerator, which quit working. I can’t afford a new microwave at this moment, so I fished out my trusty roll of white duct tape, and taped the handle back together.

Microwave Broken Handle

For the casual observer, you wouldn’t know it’s broken. The white duct tape really blends in well. But my mother is staying with me, so I had to label it with a hot pink stickie note, “Handle broken,” alerting her to open with care.

Sigh, this gives me some breathing room until I get a new microwave. I open the door to the kitchen cabinet under the microwave to put my handy dandy duct tape away (I keep it in the kitchen to solve all my problems) and guess what, the door came off at the hinges. The hinge actually broke and took a chunk of the cabinet door with it.


Broken HingeI get out my electric screwdriver and take out the old hinge. I try my best to duct tape it back together. No dice. So, I grab my coat and and head out to the nearest Lowe’s to find a suitable hinge replacement. Turns out, this hinge is a special 120-degree door hinge. All the other hinges are meant for 90-degree cabinet doors. The friendly guys at Lowe’s tell me to go online and see if I can find one.


I head back home and spend the rest of the evening trying to make-do with one less hinge and a missing door chunk. My fix involved some creative duct-tape solutions. Oh, and another hot pink stickie telling my mother to “handle” with care.

Broken Cabinet Door

While I was duct-taping, I was thinking: what will life be like for humans who travel past low Earth orbit for long-distance human spaceflight?

What do you think will happen when we set up human outposts farther than a hop, skip, and jump from this planet? I envision duct-tape moments will be their norm. Just like remote locations here on Earth, where resupply is scarce. We humans are resourceful. We use what we have at our fingertips to make ends meet.

I picture long-distance space travel will look more like the Matrix.

Matrix movie pic

Our shiny new spacecraft and provisions won’t look shiny and new for long. Part of the learning experience on the Russian Mir and the International Space Station is to sustain human life in the remote extreme environment 220 miles over our heads. We’re still close enough for rescue and resupply. The further we venture out, the harder mission support becomes.

Our most dramatic duct-tape moment may be the STS-120 cuff link fix for the solar arrays on Space Station. Flight Day 8 in the mission, we noticed a separation in one of the solar arrays.

Damaged Space Station solar array

Teams on the ground worked with the Space Station and STS-120 crews in orbit to fashion a fix, called the cuff link, out of existing material onboard the spacecraft. Below is Astronaut George Zamka holding NASA’s solution.

On Flight Day 12, Astronaut Scott Parazynski attached himself to the end of the very long boom of the Space Shuttle Discovery (which is currently in orbit for her final flight at the very moment), and attached the cuff link to the solar panel to hold it in place. All while the solar panels continue to collect energy from the sun. Quite dangerous. Quite amazing.

Scott Parazynski repairing Space Station solar array: Credit: NASA

A true duct-tape moment of human ingenuity.

I expect to see so many more creative and heroic moments in the future of this planet’s exploration of the heavens above. But for a moment, let’s get back to the subject of home ownership, shall we? Did I mention the clogged toilet from last weekend? I admit, no amount of duct tape is going to fix that problem. I called a plumber.

But when you live in space, you ARE the plumber. At times like these, I’m glad I’m not a space pioneer. Some skills, I’d rather not attempt. Space toilet repair is one of them. Though we have many stories to tell along those [clogged] lines too. Not today, though. I’m sticking with duct tape! 😉


Filed under astronaut, innovation, NASA, space, technology