When NASA’s astronauts need a power tool to use in orbit, they can’t just head down to Lowe’s and pick up a DeWalt. Vacuum, radiation, and extreme temperatures make for a difficult environment, to say the least, so NASA started looking into a tool — half drill-driver, half ratcheting torque wrench — that could be used on spacewalks to maintain the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station in the mid ’90s. Alliant Techsystems filled that order with the Pistol Grip Tool or PGT: it’s a self-contained, computer-controlled, and battery-operated tool that can torque down fasteners very precisely while being operated by an astronaut with the dexterity of someone wearing pressurized hockey gloves.
The PGT’s 3/8″ drive works on a number of fasteners. The tool can apply from .7 to 25 ft-lbs of torque in its motorized mode, and up to 35 ft-lbs in manual mode. Its speed ranges from 0 to 60 RPM, and even the number of revolutions per pull of the trigger can be programmed. And if the astronaut’s too busy to do it, Mission Control can adjust all the various settings wirelessly.
An LED display shows the tool’s status as well as the torque being applied. On one charge the 39V batteries, which can be changed mid-mission, will drive 80 fasteners down to 25 ft-lbs. If you find a price, let us know.