Saturday, November 29, 2008

Where the hell does NASA shop?

Where the hell does NASA shop? I mean, I thought the days of $500 toilet seats and $700 screwdrivers were behind us. Perhaps not.

As if astronauts losing some stray spiders in space wasn't bad enough, last week astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper (Jesus, say that one three times fast), was doing a spacewalk around the Orbital Money Pit, um, I mean International Space Station. In the middle of cleaning a leaky grease gun while working on some adjustments to a solar panel arm, she let go of a tool bag. Said tool bag then floated away, as it was untethered.

The bag contained a couple grease guns, some cleaning wipes, and a couple scraper blades. According to NASA, the bag cost about a hundred grand. Digest that a moment before you choke. Yes, $100,000 on a bag of shit that you can buy at Lowe’s for 25 bucks.

NASA won’t provide an itemized cost for the bag, probably because they simply have no fucking clue as to why it cost a hunnert large, but they claim that some of it is specialized hardware that had to be fabricated, qualified for the tasks and certified for use in the vacuum of space, where temperatures swing between 200 degrees F and minus 200 degrees F. The aforementioned “EVA Bag” (Extravehicular Activity is NASA-babble geekspeak for “space walk”) contained: four retractable tethers, two adjustable equipment tethers, a grease gun with a straight nozzle, two wire ties, a grease gun with a J-hook nozzle, an EVA wipe caddy, six EVA wipes (two wet, four dry), a scraper debris container, a SARJ scraper, a large trash bag, and the EVA lock bag itself.

Apparently, NASA-certified super-duper expensive grease guns that are “engineered and tested” still leak. Great.

Ever wonder if the cost overages are making up for the cost of just getting these things into space? I mean, sure, gasoline is back down under $1.80 a gallon, but diesel is still up, and I really hate to think of what rocket fuel costs. The external tank on the Shuttle holds 146,181.8 gallons of liquid oxygen and 395,581.9 gallons of liquid hyrdogen for the Main Engines. The OMS (Orbital Manuevering System engines)and RCS (REaction Control System) burn monomethyl hydrazine fuel(CH3NHNH2)and nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer(N2O4). Each of the two solid rocket boosters hold 1.1 million pounds of solid rocket propellant. Now, I’m not exactly prepared to call my local chemical supply company and inquire as to bulk hydrazine and LOX prices on a holiday wekend, but I’m pretty sure the shit ain’t cheap.

Might explain why the other big piece of gear they worked on this time around was a lttle gadget that recycles the astronauts sweat and piss into drinking water. Yummy!!! Hope they don't decide to recycle the turds too.

I kinda feel bad for Heide, though…poor kid spends a lifetime preparing to work in space, drops a bag, and she’ll be blacklisted now for losing the gear. NASA ain’t ever gonna let her fly again, according to the rumor mill. I feel that she shoulda said something a little more realistic though; the audio of the EVA has her saying “Oh great” as she loses the bag and in the same situation, I think most of us would have had an “Aw, shit” come out.

If you cruise YouTube, several videos have surfaced of the bag floating away, and now a few people are claiming to have spotted the bag with telescopes, orbiting the earth as the tiniest of stellites, waiting to burn up in the atmosphere when it gets low enough. It looked like a shooting star whizzing by.

So next time you look to the stars in the clear night sky and make a wish on a little white streak, you may just be wishing on a hundred thousand dollars worth of tote bag.

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