Humble cordless screwdriver helps NASA with Hubble Space Telescope repair

Consumer Reports News: May 19, 2009 11:36 AM

Many manufacturers claim their products use space-age technology or materials. But last Sunday, the tables were turned when a NASA astronaut used a tool based partly on a standard cordless screwdriver to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.

During an extended EVA—that's NASA-speak for extravehicular activity or a space walk—Atlantis space-shuttle astronaut Mike Massimino used the Mini Power Tool, whose handle design was based on the grip on a DeWalt cordless screwdriver. And in a case of NASA tapping NASCAR, the innards of this 450-rpm driver were based on tools used by stock-car-racing pit crews. The photo shows Massimino practicing with the Mini Power Tool.

According to this Orlando Sentinel report, a NASA aerospace engineer brought one of the bulky gloves worn by astronauts during EVAs to his local hardware stores and tried out dozens of drills, saws, and screwdrivers to find the best grip for the tool.

Although the tool was designed to survive a shuttle mission, it failed shortly after Massimino began removing 111 tiny screws holding an instrument cover in place. Fortunately, a spare was on board the Atlantis, and Massimino was able to complete the job.

"Hard to sleep last night after my spacewalk, images of the work and the views still vivid in my mind," Massimino wrote on Twitter afterward.—Gian Trotta | | Twitter

Essential information:
Even if you're not on an EVA and are just assembling some RTA (ready-to-assemble furniture), our buyer's guide to cordless drills, drivers, and tool kits will help you make a wise purchase. Before buying, drill down into our videos on how we test drills and why cordless drivers might not match up to full-sized drills.


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