Duct tape on the moon

Yesterday’s Science at NASA podcast had a story about duct tape and Apollo 17. (Transcript, audio)

lunar rover

The lunar rover lost a fender and they taped it back on with duct tape. That worked for a while, then they had to make a new fender with laminated maps and duct tape.

Why is a fender such a big deal? Without a fender, the astronauts would get dirty. So why is that a big deal?

  1. Dirt is dark, and dark absorbs sun light. A dirty astronaut may become a fried astronaut.
  2. Dirt scratches visors, making it hard to see.
  3. Dirt gets in parts like hinges and breaks them.

So not only did duct tape save the Apollo 13 astronauts, as in the eponymous movie, it may have saved the Apollo 17 astronauts as well.

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The image above is actually from Apollo 16. Same lunar rover design. I happened to have a set of photos from Apollo 16 that a friend gave me.

4 thoughts on “Duct tape on the moon

  1. On a completely different note (speaking about the moon), I heard something a while ago that was quite interesting regarding the supposed age of the moon. The rate of deposition of star dust is such that, if the moon were millions of years old, the moon would have a miles-thick coat of dust. But if it were merely a few thousand years old, it would have a few inches of dust. The astronauts encountered a few inches of dust. There was a lot of concern that when the moon unit landed, it would sink into deep, deep dust! Hmmm. Makes ya think.

  2. Mike, you can find out the full story about the moon dust depth and the age of the moon in “Science Held Hostage” by Howard Van Till. The story about the depth of dust and the age of the moon is somewhat of an urban legend. There are elements of truth in it, but when astronauts actually measured the rate of dust deposition on the moon and took into account the depth of compacted dust below the surface, the results were consistent with other estimates of the age of the moon. So moon dust actually implies the moon is billions of years old.

  3. Ah the prime space engineering tool! (See movie.) The stuff must remain popular with engineers and astronauts, because a standard waste stream assessed for the design of the Orion spacecraft included some amount per unit volume of duct tape as a waste component! ‘Twas used on Apollo 13 as well in that CO2-scrubbing fiasco. In my travels (through Google) to dig some of this up I learned that Professor Draper who headed the effort to build nav systems for LEM and Command Module absolutely insisted the two be compatible in software, so they could back each other up. Alas, the same wasn’t done with the environmental subsystems.

    I also learned that if you probe into Google using “Apollo 13” and “duct tape”, you run into an awful lot of sermons and religious pages, including one I was tempted to cite which claimed tangible evidence that Apollo 13 was saved by the Power of Prayer and that’s all. Uh, I think that’s overdoing it. 😉

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