Astronauts Build an Air Scrubber Out of Random Junk
When it comes to pulling off the ultimate MacGyverism, no one can do it
better than NASA. Their engineers have to be ready at a moment's
notice to find new ways to build complicated machines and mechanisms
out of everyday objects because, as the Apollo 13 mission proved, you
never know if you'll have an emergency that won't have a contingency
plan in place and (as every other mission has since proved) you never
know what NASA is going to cut out of their budgets next.
When astronauts Jim Lovell, John Swigert and Fred Haise had to move
from the command module to the LEM in order to conserve power to run
their navigational computer, they didn't realize the calculations for
oxygen consumption were only made for two people instead of three. So
their carbon dioxide levels began to skyrocket. They had a lithium
hydroxide canister on board. However, the plug for the canister on the
LEM was round and the canister itself was square.
NASA Flight Controller Gene Krantz (for those of you who haven't
picked up a history textbook since elementary school, he was played by
Ed Harris in the Apollo 13 movie) wrote in his book Failure is Not an Option that their only option--not including failure--was to get their engineers to build a makeshift air scrubber out of things they had laying around the ship.
Apollo 13 astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Kevin Bacon
The crew didn't, as we would have done, admit defeat, light cigarettes and try to bone something one last time before their slow and painful death, which is just one major difference between the Cracked staff and NASA astronauts. Instead, working for an entire day and a half without
sleep, they came up with this: The plastic flight cover would act as a
funnel through which the lithium hydroxide was pumped through a suit
hose, into a fan and then through a sock, which acted as the filter.
The whole thing was held together with duct tape.
Yes, this sounds like something out of a cartoon. But it worked, saving the lives of three astronauts and ensuring that Tom Hanks would go on to become an Oscar-nomination machine.
Could MacGyver Have Done it Better?
Unless Hollywood buys our MacGyver in Space! screenplay, we may never know how he would handle himself in a space shuttle. Further, We can't find an episode where the Gyver had to clear out a smoke-filled room. We're guessing having to build an air filter would be too many steps for him to handle.
However, since he knows a thing or two about creating smoke screens (episode 102: he uses fire ash, rice alcohol and a car exhaust to create a painful wall of tear gas, episode 116: he burns pesticide, soap flakes and tile cleaner in a saucepan to create a smokescreen, etc.), we're convinced he could at least build an ingenious device to kill a capsule full of astronauts. Or at least build the world's most kick-ass bong.
(Note to Hollywood: we also have a Cheech and MacGyver in Space script in the works if you do decide to go with the bong angle.)
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