Its been quite a while since I've seen the movie but I have been thinking about what tools I would want to have with me if I moved to a different country, or worse a different planet. My first answer would be all of them but that really isn't practical because I would need an ocean container to haul it all in.
As a fun mental exercise I started to imagine what tools I would take if I was leaving earth and going to colonize another planet. It turns out there are all kinds of what if questions that come up so I had to set some basic rules to help define the problem and scope.
The following description sets the stage for the basic tools of the colonization mission.
You are part of a team of explorers sent on a one way trip to colonize a distant habitable planet. The information available on the target planet is limited. We know the basics. The temperature, atmospheric composition, gravity, radiation, land masses, oceans. And we also know it harbors carbon based lower life forms of plants and animals. All of the data we have is from long range high speed probes that surveyed the system from orbit. Unfortunately we don't have any hard surface data because of the limited sensor capability of the fast probes. Our best guess from the available data is the target planets are very earth like but without any other higher humanoid life forms.
This is a one way mission. There is no fuel and stores for any type of return flight. We anticipate enough fuel on arrival to survey two of the most likely planets in the extrasolar system for the colonization team to make a final site decision. Re-supply of any sort will not be possible. The spacecraft itself is approximately the mass and composition of a semi truck and trailer. All of the materials of the spacecraft are available for recycling and use for the colonization at the discretion of the crew. Communication with earth will be possible for one year after the spacecraft lands. However any signal will take a month to reach the earth and a month to come back. In other words the spacecraft will have computer, electrical power and communication for one year. After that the colonization team is on its own. Forever. No McMaster, no Craigslist, its Sink or swim.
As the sole representative for the skilled trades on this colonization mission you have been given the responsibility to recommend and pack the tool kit for the mission. Space and weight are severely limited. All available space is dedicated to fuel and food stores for the crew. The allotted weight and volume for the toolkit are 10kg and 60 liters volume maximum. Approximately 22lbs and roughly the volume of two five gallon buckets. The requirements for the toolkit are that it must have the capability to service and maintain the spacecraft during the interplanetary flight and be useful for the establishment of a colony on the planet surface. You have less than two weeks to choose and pack the kit for the flight.
Is this realistic? Not really. The ship would have at the very least a way to produce energy either solar or nuclear to power the computers and other equipment aboard. However it doesn't make as good a story if the ship will sustain the colonists for a long period of time. I would much rather think about taking a spacecraft apart with my tool kit and building all kinds of things from the materials. I can't take a chainsaw and a cutting torch so I will have to make due with some good hand tools and elbow grease.
My first thoughts are centered around general tool making. I expect to find raw materials on the planet but I don't have much information on what to expect. I'm not going to pack a blast furnace and a rolling mill so I will need to figure out a generic enough set to get me going no matter what I find. The first and easiest source of materials will be the space craft itself. It will probably be a shelter initially but will eventually be consumed to make to make tools and machines we will need to process the available raw materials on the planet.
Twenty two pounds is not much of a tool kit for the rest of your life. If you think about it everything we have today comes from the guys that learned how to make stone tools so theoretically we don't need anything. Those ancient tool makers are the beginning of human tool making history. We could start again from square one with stone tools but with our knowledge and source of high grade raw materials from the space craft our new civilization has a major head start. It also makes a better article to read.
So I started a list of tools, gathered them up and weighed them. Right away I see that the volume is not the problem but the weight is. Anybody knows who has picked up a working persons tool box that tools are heavy. I chose tools that I thought have multiple uses. Tools that have too many functions usually don't do any of the functions very well. The example I use is the knives they had for camping that had everything on them including a fork and a spoon. They really didn't do anything very well. Better to distribute that weight over a couple of single or dual purpose tools that perform well. Since I could only choose what I have in the shop we will have to make some assumptions about how much each tool could be optimized for the trip.
Toms list of tools for trip. Not in any order of preference.
- Tongue and groove pliers. (Channelocks) These are general purpose pliers that fill a wide range of holding and turning jobs.
- Vise Grip pliers. Curved jaw with wire cutter. Clamping pliers useful for holding and clamping.
- Four way screwdriver. Has two sizes of both phillips and flat blade drivers.
- Pipe wrench 14 inch aluminum. I didn't have an aluminum one to weigh so I estimated it at one third of the weight of a standard steel model. Heavy duty turning and holding tool.
- Hammer. Initially I chose a ball pein but when is the last time you used the ball end? I switched this to a claw hammer which is more versatile.
- Adjustable wrench six inch. Can't go anywhere without an adjustable wrench.
- Diagonal cutters. I seem to use these all the time. Wire cutting, nail pulling, crimping, etc.
- Multi tool. I have a SOG brand tool with a long list of accessories.These particular ones have a needle nose pliers in them.
- Tweezers. Try getting an alien out of your finger without them.
- Allen wrenches. I usually hate the folding hex key type but they are lighter and not as easy to loose an individual wrench in the dirt.
- Electrical multimeter. Mine is heavy at 1.3 lbs. I'm guessing this could be reduced by a factor of ten with a smaller lighter model.
- Hacksaw. Cuts almost any metal and or wood.
- Jab saw.
- Coping saw.
- Tungsten carbide grit hacksaw blade. Flat and wire type. Now I can cut hardened steel and other tough materials.
- EMT scissors. These will cut sheetmetal and a variety of other thin materials.
- Diamond abrasive sticks.
- Half round file.
- Flat file
- Round file.
- Combination square set. This fills a couple of needs. I get a good right angle reference, a level, an accurate length standard, and an angle standard.
- 12 ft tape measure.
- Pocket reference book. I can remember a lot but not all this useful stuff.
- Large locking blade knife. May have to process some of those tasty off world animals while were there.
- Hemostat clamp.
- Cold Chisel
- Small sharpening stone.
- Small screwdriver set. Jewelers type.
- Two or three foot length of band saw blade. 3/4 wide coarse pitch. This is to make a bow saw out of to help process wood or whatever plant based building materials we find.
What other multi use tools should I add? I was thinking about some force multipliers like a screw or hydraulic jack, or a prybar of some sort. Some useful additions might be,
- Socket wrench set.
- Torx wrenches
- Needle files
- Soldering Iron. What fuel source? Electric on the ship but its dead weight after that.
- Drill bits
- Hand crank drill or brace
- Wood Chisel
- Pin punches
- Tapered Drift punch
- Sewing needles
- Lightweight come along
- Magnesium Fire starter.
Doing some internet searches I looked at some tool kits for people traveling off the beaten path. The key common element is self sufficiency. I was happy to see that some of these guys agree with my selections. Open ocean sailors, back country off roaders, and astronauts all seem to pack a similar kit.
I wanted to get some other peoples opinions So I showed my off world tool loadout to my wife and Jeff from MLS After explaining the basic idea and general rules they both ripped into my tool selections like a couple of wood chippers.I admit I didn't have a leg to stand on with the dividers.......
There are many other things I would want along on a trip like this but they fall under the heading of consumables. Things like cord and wire, zip ties, duct tape deck screws, nails etc all fall under this heading. For the purpose of this thought exercise lets stick to durable tools or at least ones that can be sharpened and reconditioned.
After my wife and Jeff added their choices to the load out we now have some drill bits. We could add one of the old school brace type drill drivers.
So my additions to top off the kit are, brace bit driver, one inch wide wood chisel, needle files, larger selection of drill bits, a mirror, and a magnet. Obviously we could custom make most of these tools and loose more weight but how much? It all related to how much time you have to spend optimizing. Even the Apollo guys opted for a few off the shelf commercial items and its a safe bet they had more than two weeks to decide what to take.
Post a comment if you think you have a worthy improvement. Thanks for looking.