The low-dollar space tricks that saved the ISS: the anecdotes

Unpredictable things can happen in space, and in those cases creativity can be more effective than the most advanced technical equipment.

Just a few days ago, astronauts stationed on the ISS were forced to prepare for the evacuation of the space station due to a shower of debris that threatened to hit it.

The debris was the result of a Russian missile test, which produced a large amount of debris that now adds to the already large array of "waste" roaming uncontrolled in Earth's orbit.

But the hazards of living in space are not just about debris, and sometimes the readiness to come up with a creative solution can save the day.

Creative Solutions in Space

Sometimes the ISS has risked serious damage, and not just from passing space debris: although mission control has an almost endless list of probabilities and resulting solutions ready, the unpredictable can happen in space, too.

And that's when astronauts' resources become central: it happened during the Apollo 13 mission, when astronauts had to find a way to fit a square hook into a circular housing, and it happens on the ISS, too.

As was the case with the Apollo 13 crew, American tape, cardboard, plastic bags and other everyday items can become vital.

When the International Space Station was under construction, for example, one of the newly deployed solar panels tore off during the operation, and there were no technical instruments on board to fix it.

The astronauts built huge joints with what they had available, a sort of giant cufflinks for shirts, with which they literally sewed up the tear. The "twins" are still in place, and it's only thanks to the promptness of the crew that that array of solar panels still powers the ISS today.

The Toothbrush That Saved the ISS

The Space Station is home to the most advanced technological equipment imaginable, yet sometimes the promptness to pursue a MacGyver-like solution proved capable of saving the day.

When the crew started looking for the leak on the Zvezda module last summer, they obviously considered the ultrasonic leak detector, but it didn't work.

After days and days of searching, the situation was saved by some very simple tea leaves, which attracted by the leak were able to finally point the astronauts to the hole on Zvezda's hull.

But the most incredible anecdote dates back to 2012, when astronauts Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide found themselves needing to fix the Space Station's main ignition panel.

Out on an extra-vehicular mission, they were faced with the impossibility of restoring the system because bolts were caught in metal dust and the two did not have the necessary equipment to finish the task.

Something was needed to clean the bolts, and fast - and the astronauts made it from high-voltage power lines and a $2 toothbrush.

Williams and Hoshide's do-it-yourself metal toothbrush, obviously modified to fit into the huge gloves of their EVA suit, saved the entire station's electrical system. A $2 toothbrush managed to save a $200 billion Station.