Technology: A Handy Wrench for Space

With its pistol grip and nubby barrel, the instrument looks like the handy ray gun with which Buck Rogers and Wilma used to zap Killer Kane. It is actually a space-age wrench. Cordless and battery-powered, it was designed by Martin Marietta as a zero-reaction power tool to be used by astronauts for turning nuts and bolts in the weightless conditions of space.

Using an ordinary wrench for such an ordinary job would throw an astronaut for a loop. Newton's third law of motion is an inexorable reminder that for every action there is...

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