Tag Archives: scott parazynski

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

How Twitter is like Mission Control

I’m on the other side of my Door Jam Saga. Whew! Thank goodness. My Twitter buds, or Tweeps as we like to call ourselves, lived through the drama with me–offering tips and moral support. Now you too can relive the experience with me, and see how they helped.

Come to think of it, Twitter became my own personal Mission Control!

I mean really. That’s how it works during missions. Astronauts up in space have a problem. They signal Mission Control down on Earth. Teams come together to provide options to resolve the issue. Think Apollo 13…or the STS-12o mission when Astronaut Scott Parazynski repaired the Space Station solar array with an onorbit hand-crafted “cuff link.”

Yep. That’s pretty much how it happened for me with my Door Jam Saga.

Here’s the tweet that called TWission Control to action:

Door Jam Tweet

Door Jam Tweet

Let me set the stage for you. I came home from work to find the door to my study closed. How odd. It was open when I left. I tried the door, but it wouldn’t budge — as if a body was leaning against it, holding it closed.

Believe it or not, I actually called out to ask if someone was there.

You know, like the creepy horror movies I refuse to watch. That spooky scene where the woman hears a noise and goes to check it out. If I were watching the movie, I would yell at the screen and tell her to run for her life — in the other direction. But  no, here I am in my own house, asking if someone is behind the very door I’m trying to open.

Not smart! (Readers, don’t try this at home.)

At that point, I realize how silly, and reckless, I am. I head back to the front door and perform a series of escape maneuvers:

  • Open the door (in preparation for a speedy egress — NASA term).
  • Change from heels to running shoes (conveniently by the door). Also prepping for a speedy egress down the front steps.
  • Call my daughter. Think help-line live.

With my daughter on the phone ready to call 911, I approach the closed study door again. I’m wondering, upon reflection, why I didn’t pick up a baseball bat or something. But, I was wise, really. I’m faster on my feet in flight, than I am strong — for hand-to-hand combat, I mean.

Back to the story: With iPhone in hand, I announce to the person behind the door that I’m on the phone with the police (BIG LIE). I demand he come out.

Silence. Thankfully!

Next, my very wise daughter suggests I go out side and look in the window to see what’s blocking the door. I follow her advice. Luckily I’d opened the blinds before I left. Otherwise, I’d be driving blind, so to speak.

Ah ha! The culprit? Two VERY heavy Ikea frames had fallen against the door to wedge it shut.

Culprit: Ikea Frames

Culprit: Ikea Frames

I thank her, hang up the phone, and try to figure out how to dislodge the frames. Oh, and I also tweeted about it. (The screengrab at the top.)

Now here was my problem. After going down for the STS-129 launch and Tweet-up, I was almost a week behind in the race to complete 50,000 words in the National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo. The clock was ticking.

NaNoWriMo Deadline

NaNoWriMo Deadline

Now what to do? I found a heavy medal ruler and tried to un-wedge the frames from under the door. Nope. Frames wedged too tight. I tried pushing the door apart at the top and slipping a wire hanger over the crack in the top for a frame-fishing adventure. Nope. I considered breaking the window, but decided against it. It’s cold…and I don’t like broken glass. I preferred a hole in the study door (which can survive the winter unfixed, should I so choose to ignore it).

The Twittersphere came to the rescue. Tweeps offered numerous Tw-ideas on how to resolve my crisis.

@Elross DoorJam TWidea

@Elross DoorJam TWidea

UK's @MDBenson offers TWidea

UK's @MDBenson offers TWidea

@Brobof's suggestion

@Brobof's suggestion

@AdamCanFly Door Jam suggestion

@AdamCanFly Door Jam suggestion


@dschwartz2 DoorJam suggestion

@SFC_Don DoorJam suggestion

@SFC_Don DoorJam suggestion

Interesting that male tweeps told me how to fix the problem. Female tweeps offered emotional support and well-wishes. …Says SO much, don’t you think?

So Crazy It Might Work

@Elross offers suggestion

I decided to try to take the door handle off and use the hole from the door knob to fish from — like the hole ice-fishers use in winter. Mind you, the screws to the door knob were INside the room. I was OUTside the room. I needed to saw the knob off. I naively thought the lock-works would simply fall out.

I made a trip to Home Depot, planning to buy an electric saw to chop this baby off in seconds. The little man at the store didn’t want me to pay so much money for the electric version. He kept taking me back to the manual-labor wall. He insisted I could take down a measly little door knob in a matter of a few minutes — 15 tops.

I didn’t believe him. In my gut, I knew. But I let him talk me into a hand saw.

Bringing out the Big Gun

Bringing out the Big Gun

TWO HOURS I sawed.

“Saw” little progress–pun intended. I got really frustrated. My knuckles were raw from rubbing against the door. I posted this:

Home Depot Man

Not happy with Mr. Home Depot

@apacheman Power Tool Danger

@apacheman offers insight

At this point, I’m having visions of astronaut Mike Massimino on the STS-125 Hubble repair mission. If you don’t know the story, I’ll summarize for you. During a tricky spacewalk, he couldn’t unbolt one of the handles in an panel he needed to remove. That one handle stood between success and failure. During one of the periods with Mission Control loses video with the crew, @Astro_Mike broke off the handle. He knew Mission Control wouldn’t approve, so he took action while they weren’t looking. One of those “ask for forgiveness, rather than permission” moments. Hey it worked! The mission was a great success.

So about now, I’m wishing @Astro_Mike could brut-force my door handle. He’s a pretty big guy after all.

Where is @Astro_Mike?

I need @Astro_Mike to break off the knob!

I wasn’t the only one who thought @Astro_Mike could get the job done:

@negativereturn Need @astro_Mike

@negativereturn Need @astro_Mike

Thinking of how @Astro_Mike would take care of an obstacle, I finally got a hammer and broke off the knob. Yes, indeed. I credit my inspiration to the STS-125 Hubble Repair mission. The knob broke off! Yay!!! …or so I thought.

DoorKnob: Fail

DoorKnob: Fail

But, guess what? The lock-works didn’t fall out…like my grand plan. Now I just had a door-knob-less wedged-closed door with my computer inside. Fail. I decided to take the rest of the night off and travel to Lowes in the morning. I really didn’t want to meet with little Home Depot man again.

My next trick: cut a hole around what was left of the door knob, then put a larger door knob over it. So, I bought this cool gadget (below), but I encountered another problem — the door lock was in the way of where the drill bit needed to be. Fail.

To draw this very long blog to an end, I drilled a hole in the middle of the door. I snagged the frames with a coat-hanger through my fishing hole, pulled them up enough for me to squeeze into the gap in the door. I’m really thankful I cut off the door knob. Otherwise, I would have a door-knob-sized hole in my belly where the door knob once was. Yes, it was that tight of a squeeze.

Coco inspecting open door.

Coco inspecting open door.

All is well in the TWorld.

The Twittersphere is restored to order. TWission Controllers can rest now. Job well done!

Successful ending: DoorJamSaga

Successful ending: Door Jam Saga

Oh, and one more thing. I’m no closer to my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo’s November 30th deadline. But I can STILL blame the Door Jam Saga…since I’ve spent time away from NaNoWriMo to share my saga with you.

Wait. Maybe it’s YOUR fault, readers! 😉


Filed under culture, leadership, NASA, social media, space, tweet-up, writers