back to article ISS air leakage fixed in time for crew handover, thanks to floating teabag

There was good news for International Space Station (ISS) residents this week as the crew managed to plug a leak in the orbiting laboratory. While never an immediate threat to the crew's safety, nobody likes knowing that air is escaping overboard. Russian space agency Roscosmos reported the "temporary" fix on 19 October after …

  1. MiguelC Silver badge

    Earl grey or english breakfast?

    Another proof that there's no trouble a tea can't solve.

    Oops, spilled some on my keyboard again...

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: Earl grey or english breakfast?

      Its nice to see a low cost, low tech solution succeed once again.

      1. StrangerHereMyself Bronze badge

        Re: Earl grey or english breakfast?

        The FOUND the leak with a tea bag, but didn't plug the hole with it.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Earl grey or english breakfast?

          I was disappointed by that headline. I read it and thought, well if you leave a teabag in a cup for too long, it does tend to stick to the sides and be hard to remove. Not to mention that time someone put one in the dishwasher at work, and it got stuck in the plastic rotating water jet thingymagig. That took a lot of work to get clear - so I can attest that dried teabags can be pretty strong. But I'm not sure I'd trust my life support to one.

          For a repair I'd stake my life on I'd use either dried porridge or gaffer tape...

          1. 0laf Silver badge

            Re: Earl grey or english breakfast?

            Hmm dried porridge indeed would give a repair that might survive reentry, I'd suggest dried soft boiled egg yolk as another near eternal repair

            1. Tom 7 Silver badge

              Re: Earl grey or english breakfast?

              A friend of mine managed to get my daughter (in a high chair at the time) to follow his moves. She was eating porridge at the time. He mimed picking some porridge out of the bowl with his hands and rubbing it in his hair.

              It was about three weeks before we cut the last of it from her long flowing locks. And 4 weeks for him to find his bollocks!

            2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

              All of which pale before the power of dried Weet-Bix*

              *The objectively correct name. The Weetabix thing was just a great Australian troll perpetrated on the rest of the world.

          2. Flywheel Silver badge

            Re: Earl grey or english breakfast?

            > dried porridge or gaffer tape

            You'd want a Soreen Banana loaf for that really. Just the right amount of squish and it never seems to dry out.

            1. 0laf Silver badge

              Re: Earl grey or english breakfast?

              I thnk specifically what you need is anything squidgy or chewable applied liberally by a weaning 6 month old.

              1. Lon24 Silver badge

                Re: Earl grey or english breakfast?

                I am truly shocked and appalled that even the Ruskies have the affrontery call that sawdust in bags - tea!.

                Clearly proper loose leaf tea wold have been far more effective in flowing towards and indicating precisely the leakage. As to the effect our Sainsburys Gold Label in bunging up our drains - no further action would have been needed.

                Final question. Do you need a tea cosy in space?

                1. Chris G Silver badge

                  Re: Earl grey or english breakfast?

                  My wife does a fair job of sealing our drains with cold oil from the frying pan liberally mixed with coffee grounds, though less so since my last 'foaming at the mouth' admonition.

                2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

                  Re: Earl grey or english breakfast?

                  "Do you need a tea cosy in space?"

                  I haven't investigated, but I would imagine that with the lack of convection the heat will remain in the tea on its own. The tea cosy is therefore purely for fashion and to stop you burning your hands.

                  As an adjunct, presumably the tea bag will also need agitating within the pot because without convection the deliciousness won't disperse correctly on its own.

                  You are definitely right to raise such important questions though.

                  1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                    Re: Earl grey or english breakfast?

                    "Do you need a tea cosy in space?"

                    I haven't investigated,

                    Clearly you need to write that up as a proposal. You could try for the next tranche of ESA'nauts heading for the ISS, or if you can't afford to take a few months off work, try for a NASA "quickie" in SpaceShip2.

                3. Annihilator Silver badge

                  Re: Earl grey or english breakfast?

                  Clearing up spilt tea leaves is an absolute ballache *without* the added complexity of a microgravity environment. Can't imagine anything worse.

          3. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: Earl grey or english breakfast?

            For a repair I'd stake my life on I'd use either dried porridge or gaffer tape...

            Other news sites report that gaffer tape was the fix for now.

            1. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

              Re: Earl grey or english breakfast?

              Better than "Gentleman, please be seated" by RAH?

    2. chivo243 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Earl grey or english breakfast?

      Thanks for the cue! I need one about now!

    3. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Re: Earl grey or english breakfast?

      Another proof that there's no trouble a tea can't solve.

      Tea and duct tape.

      1. Schultz

        Not duct tape, but "epoxy on a bit of gauze"

        The latter is exactly the stuff that held my 1991 Hyundai together in the salty Canadian winters. I'll never forget the smell of fresh epoxy on a cold winter morning ...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not duct tape, but "epoxy on a bit of gauze"

          "I'll never forget the smell of fresh epoxy on a cold winter morning"

          A new addition to the workshop adhesives odours is UV curable "glue".

          The faq points out that it won't actually stick anything together on close contact surfaces if you can't shine the UV torch in there. However it is marvellous for binding things together with external layers.for strengthening. Note "layers" - you have to build them up in thin increments. Found it very useful for making DC analogue Tri-ang model train headlight bulb replacements. Two tiny 1.8mm LEDs can be glued side-by-side with precise positioning***. Soldering the leads crossed-over gives a bright white light that works in either direction of travel. Better than using a bridge rectifier as there on no extra voltage drop at low speeds.

          *** a prototyping 2.54mm matrix block allows them to be positioned and held firm while you apply the glue.

    4. David Roberts

      Re: Earl grey or english breakfast?

      District lack of headlines for

      Teabagging in SPAAAAACE!

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Good to hear you stand a chance of getting a decent cuppa on the ISS. It would have been a long way to go if you couldn't. But is it Yorkshire Tea? Earl Grey? Lapsang Souchong?

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      I doubt you could make a decent cuppa on the ISS. IIUC, while the O2 partial pressure is about Earth normal, the total air pressure is much lower. Meaning that water will boil at below the temperature required to make a good cuppa. They have a similar problem in the Everest base camps.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        So they just need a pressurized water boiling device? Doesn't sound that complex. I'll design one for NASA for $5million or so.

        1. herman Silver badge

          Trouble is that to open said pressure device you got to cool it down - then you are back where you started from.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Not really, you make the proper cuppa in the device and only cool it down to drink it.

            1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

              Which is therefore no longer a proper cuppa. Clearly the problem is insoluble, which explains the demise of the British space programme.

            2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

              To make tea *inside* a pressure vessel, you'd be stewing the tea-leaves. Again, not a proper cuppa. It would need a pressure vessel that had some sort of mechanics inside that could boil the water and then allow it to mix with dry tea-leaves in a separate compartment whilst maintaining the pressure. Far from impossible, but a fairly complex design that I doubt could justify the transport cost to send to the ISS.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          I'm sure the Russians could modify a Samovar. Or just wait for some Motie Watchmakers to come along and do it instead.

    2. Nitromoors

      It would have to be the ubiquirous Lipton's Yellow Label. Freely available in every country I have visited.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        But you can't get a proper cuppa with Lipton's yellow label.

        Admittedly Johnny foreigner sometimes issues you with a mug of below boiling hot water and a teabag to dunk in it, thus meaning you need to wait five minutes to get the thing to even vaguely resemble a liquid that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

        1. bpfh

          Lipton Yellow

          Is banned under the Outer Space Treaty as a deadly weapon that must not go any further in the universe and possibly already on Earth by the Geneva Convention under “cruel and unusual punishment”

    3. Annihilator Silver badge

      Remember though, Yorkshire Tea isn't from Yorkshire

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A Nimrod Variation

    In 2006 crew of an RAF Nimrod used a teapot to block up a hole when a hatch failed to shut properly. Mitch Benn even wrote a song about it for The Now Show.

    Much more importantly, what temperature do they heat the water to on the ISS to make tea? I think Italy provided an espresso machine, but who gave the tea-making facilities?

    (I think we can forgive them for using teabags. Loose tea and weightlessness would be a little undesirable.)

    1. Vulch

      Re: A Nimrod Variation

      Given the usual state of so called tea in the colonies, one would hope the Russian side has a decent samovar installed with appropriate supplies.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: A Nimrod Variation

      On operation Black Buck - the first successful attempt to bomb the Falkland Islands runway was nearly aborted because the backup aircraft had a refuelling problem. Earlier, the strike aircraft had been unable to pressurise the cockpit after take-off, because they couldn't close one of the windows.

      However, they were determined to make it. So they unwrapped one of the pilot's sandwiches, and blocked the gap with the wrapping. Not sure if it was clingfilm, brown paper bag or tinfoil though. Neither does history record what the sandwich filling was. However I'm pretty certain that there would have been plenty of flasks of tea on board - especially as the cabin heater on a Vulcan apparently took half an hour to get up to temperature - so you were pretty chilly for the first bit of any Vulcan flight. Especially with the windows open.

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: A Nimrod Variation

        Not that I would want to drink too many cups of tea on an aircraft where the only toilet is a bottle ...

  4. steelpillow Silver badge

    tea to taste

    Was that the teabag they were planning to brew up, pour out and connect to the infinite improbability drive?

  5. StrangerHereMyself Bronze badge

    Rocket Report

    Is this The Register's version of the Rocket Report (Ars Technica)?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Rocket Report

      No, this is the Hot Drink Revue. The rocket stuff is just a side effect.

  6. chivo243 Silver badge

    Another leak?

    I seem to remember there being a leak some months back. They've just gotten the idea on how to fix it? Is it rocket science?? No, just spaceship science, right? Now they have a procedure for the next leak!

    1. PerlyKing Silver badge

      Re: spaceship science

      I'd say this is spaceship technology, which is arguably harder than spaceship science.

      1. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

        Re: spaceship science

        As I discovered recently, it's an engineering discipline unto itself. I'm also very interested in it as I want off this damned planet!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: spaceship science

        "[...] which is arguably harder than spaceship science."

        A friend's daughter studied aeronautical engineering. As her parents said to people "Now that is rocket science".

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Another leak?

      Fixing it is easy, tricky part is finding it.

      Lacking a suitably large bowl of water to look for bubbles they have resolved to solve the problem with a teabag.

  7. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Bishop Airlock?

    What's his diocese?

    'Ow do you tell?

    Tattooed on the back of his neck.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did I miss something?

    A section heading says "From Pluto to New Mexico". The New Mexico bit I saw, but what's that about Pluto?

    1. Dazed and Confused

      Re: Did I miss something?

      Dr Alan Stern, famed for his work on the New Horizons mission

      NASA's mission to take some of Clyde Tombaugh's ashes to the planet he discovered, oh and take some really cool pictures too.

  9. Eclectic Man Silver badge


    This teabag, what shape was it? It could have been a round one, square or one of those newfangled tetrahedral nylon mesh thingies?

    (Just about to enjoy a pot of 'Arundel Afternoon' blend loose leaf tea, sadly no biscuits.)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm surprised they're allowed to make tea onboard. ISTR that making tea while onboard a spacecraft can severely tax the onboard computer.

    Or maybe they're not making tea, but instead it's a substance almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

  11. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    Anyone else....

    Really want see a video of the tea bag drifting towards the hole with "The Blue Danube" playing in the background?

    Mines the "Pan Am" jump suit, I'll get as I drift past.

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    NET than Saturday for Rocket Lab launch. NET than flight 17 for recovery

    Which still might , just might be before Jan 1st.


    Bearing in mind Beck has gone from "Totally impossible" to "We're going for it" that will still be a pretty major achievement.

  13. arachnoid2 Bronze badge


    Do these guys not watch the movies where they squirt some fluid into the air and track it to the hole. George Clooney would have sorted this from the offset TUT!

  14. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge


    so they teabagged the leak?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not use a small piece of gaffer tape to find & fix the leak in one go?

    1. arachnoid2 Bronze badge


      As with the tyre fixing solution Slime rubber nodules suspended in a fluid

  16. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    The first commercially funded airlock?

    Let me guess, it lets you out for free, but charges on the way in...

    "I'm sorry Dave, your credit card limit has been exceeded."

  17. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Bishop, in Aliens...

    Didn't end well..

  18. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    New airlock?

    We once had a door replaced in the middle of winter. It was feckin cold while it was being fitted. I hope the ISS has some way to keep the heat in while they add this new one.

    The insulated, air tight one --------------->

  19. Spherical Cow Silver badge

    The ISS...

    ... with two thousand perforations that let flavour flood out!

    (Icon: one of them white coats the lads wear in the Tetley ads)

  20. John Done

    That is not the first time ISS has such an issue, however, they test the ISS recently and decided that it has the great condition to be in use for 2032 at least.

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