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Levers of the Third Class

Bone club vs. lunar geology hammer.

In 1969, human beings first set foot on the moon. The mission was Apollo 11. Presented below are eleven tools, from the archives of the National Air and Space Museum, that helped us do it. These are not rockets, spaceships, or robots–though those are certainly “tools,” in their own way–but humbler implements, having more in common with the bone club (to use the 2001 metaphor) than the satellite. But that is precisely why they are remarkable.

Today, astronaut’s hand tools are often astoundingly intricate and beautiful. New York photographer Michael Soluri has a fantastic collection of photos, documenting tools used by shuttle astronauts to repair Hubble in 2007, that well illustrates that point. But the first time we went to another world, the tools we carried were simpler: the crescent wrench, the knife, even–albeit in meticulously engineered space-age form–the simple club.

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Update: The Maurer 16mm data acquisition camera (DAC) pictured in the last slide is in fact the command module (CM) DAC. The lunar module (LM) DAC, which actually recorded the famous, linked footage, was a very similar model. Here is a picture of the LM DAC from Apollo 12, with copy explaining the fate of the Apollo 11 camera:

Unlike most other Apollo missions, this lunar module version of the DAC returned to Earth because of a malfunction during the lunar module’s ascent from the Moon’s surface. Because of the strict weight restrictions in the command module during reentry, usually only the magazines with exposed film were brought back to Earth.

Thanks, Sheldon, for catching the error.

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


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