This Old Space Station; March 1999; Scientific American Magazine; by Scott; 2 Page(s)
Construction is a term the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has bandied about before, although previous spacebased building efforts resembled Erector sets more than new housing start-ups. This time it's no hyperbole. During the next six years, space suit-clad hard hats floating in microgravity will lever, bolt and even pound together 100 separate elements into a place that a select few will call home sweet orbital workstation: the International Space Station. NASA has spent the past few years preparing the right tools for the job-although it may take a while before they appear on This Old House: The Next Generation.
"It's more in the other direction," according to Phil West, the project manager of space-walk tools for the space station. "How can we use something built on earth in space?" No Star Wars-style "hydrospanners" here. Instead they are power tools that resemble a cordless Makita drill on steroids, high-strength ratchet wrenches and even decidedly low-tech crowbars for prying loose black boxes frozen to a module's side. "The challenge is to make them small enough to not take up too much space and large enough to operate while wearing bulky gloves," says Col. Mark Lee, a veteran of the second Hubble Telescope maintenance mission.