Toothbrush photo from Shutterstock

When it comes to sheer ingenuity, you can’t beat the geniuses at NASA. After all, these are the people that put the Curiosity Rover on Mars, men on the moon and improvised a way to adapt Apollo 13’s square carbon dioxide scrubber cartridges to fit the Lunar Module’s round cartridges using nothing but the scant materials on board. Their latest feat is just as impressive – for the past week, astronauts Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide have been unable to install a new main bus switching unit (MBSU) on the International Space Station due to stuck bolts. However a brainstorming session at NASA’s Johnson Space Center yielded a solution, and it involved the use of a common household item – a toothbrush!

nasa, curiosity rover, international space station, household items, recycling, MSBU, solar power, solar energy, astronautsImage by NASA TV

The problem facing the ISS was quite serious. Typically the space station has four MBSUs in place to relay power from its solar arrays to the rest of the station. When one of these MBSUs went offline it meant that two of the station’s eight solar arrays were essentially worthless. In short, the ISS crew would only have had access to 75% of their usual energy allotment.

It appears that the issue plaguing the installation was metal shavings stuck in the MBSU’s receptacles for the bolts. However the NASA ground crew came up with a unique solution using a common and cheap household item.

The NASA team suggested using a modified toothbrush to lubricate the inside of the bolt’s housing once all the metal shavings had been removed. Speaking to reporters, a NASA spokesman said: “We knew that we had particles down inside the socket, so they came outside with yet another tool that was developed by the ground team.”

Using the low-tech solution, as well as a pressurized can of nitrogen gas, Williams and Hoshide were able to successfully install the unit after a four hour spacewalk.

“The inventive ideas that led to today’s spacewalk success demonstrates how well the teams on the ground and in orbit work together, and shows the dedication of those involved in the agency’s space station program”, said flight director Ed Van Cise. It also shows that even the most common household items can be used to fix the most hi-tech of products!


Via CS Monitor