Astronauts fix the Space Station with a toothbrush

When NASA's Sunita Williams and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide couldn't seem to get a bolt attached to the outside of the space station, ground crews came up with a clever solution: Fix the problem with a toothbrush. At, Denise Chow explains the details:

On Aug. 30, Williams and Hoshide completed a marathon spacewalk that lasted more than 8 hours, but the astronauts were thwarted by a stubborn bolt and were unable to finish connecting the so-called main bus switching unit (MBSU). The stuck bolt forced NASA to add [yesterday's] extra spacewalk.

But, following last week's unsuccessful attempt, flight controllers, engineers and veteran spacewalkers worked around the clock at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston to devise a solution to the problem. Using only the supplies available on the space station, the teams came up with creative new tools for Williams and Hoshide to use to install the MBSU.

One was a modified toothbrush that was used to lubricate the inside of the bolt's housing after debris and metal shavings from inside had been removed. Another improvised instrument included a cleaning tool that had been made from wires that were bent back to form a brush, explained Kieth Johnson, lead spacewalk director at the Johnson Space Center.

Read the rest of the story at


  1. The first thing I thought of when I saw that picture was David Rakoff’s discussion of the American Space Shuttle with its Canadian robot arm.

  2. The bad news is that ISS Expedition Commander Commander Sunita Williams is going to have to brush her teeth with industrial lubricant tonight.

    1. …with Akihiko’s gnarly, old, worn out toothbrush.  She’s considering just not brushing until she gets back.

  3. In the days of the Shuttle there was a wire for wire duplicate on the ground with the internal covers off. In the case of a problem they’d figure out a bypass or whatever and tell the crew what to do.

  4. I have to say, as a field service technician myself, I’m constantly doing stuff like this.

    The stories I could tell.

    /It’s possible that the debris is from stuff orbiting the Earth, and the shaving from untorquing the nut.

  5. all I can think of is doctor who when he accidently used a toothbrush instead of his sonic screwdriver

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