It seems Apollo missions carried some variety of gray tape, likely Duct Tape or similar. There's the scene in the movie Apollo 13 and the reality behind it discussed in the video below.

Question: How often has duct tape or similar gray tape been used during crewed space missions? What were a few of the most notable (or most frequently recurring) instances or types of use (besides the famous Apolo 13 CO2 canister "emergency retrofit" illustrated below)?

Apollo-era, Shuttle, space stations, (International, Skylab, Mir, Tiangon, etc.) All crewed spaceflight.

Narrator: But in reality, it was just one man who found the solution; crew systems chief Ed Smiley, and 40 years later he still remembers exactly how he saved the day.

Smiley: We worked from the stowage list, which was just a list of everything that’s on board, and so we discovered Duct Tape, and said “Aha!”

Screen shots from the Smithsonian YouTube video How Duct Tape Saved the Lives of the Apollo 13 Crew:

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  • $\begingroup$ Not all that often nowadays, having been mostly displaced by kapton tape. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ I know that orange stuff is definitely the terrestial vacuum-worker's friend and enemy. But it seems like it has a different application within pressurized cabins. $\endgroup$
    – ikrase
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 9:10

5 Answers 5


Gray tape was used during the Apollo missions, although only mentioned specifically by that name twice.

  • The stowage manifests have several entries for tape. Although "duct tape" or "gray tape" is never listed as such, each CM and LM launched with quantity 1 of part # SEB12100050, which is variously described as TAPE,UTILITY, TAPE,ROLL, or just TAPE. I believe this was the gray tape. They were stored in location R6 in the CM, and as in the picture below for the LM. There were also recording tape cassettes, "micropore" medical tape to attach electrodes, and fiberglass mending tape for the survival rafts, but none of these are duct tape.

LM tape roll

  • The mission reports for Apollo 7, 8, 10, 11, and 12 do not mention use of tape (other than recording tape or taping electrodes).

  • Apollo 9 used tape to secure the eyepieces in the sextant.

  • Apollo 13 famously used gray tape in the CM LiOH cartridge adapter.

  • Apollo 14 used tape to help darken the cabin for dim-light photography.

  • Apollo 15 used tape to fix a broken antenna on the lunar module pilot's spacesuit. They taped the brightness control for the lower equipment bay lights to the position they preferred and left it that way for the rest of the mission. The restraint harnesses of the crew couches became unscrewed; all but one part was recovered, and tape was used to replace that missing part.

  • Apollo 16 used tape to secure the eyepieces in the sextant. After transferring lunar samples to the CM, the CM cabin fan was turned off and paper was taped over the inlet to contain dust. Cardboard shades were taped to the floodlights to help darken the cabin for dim-light photography. Post-flight inspection found two pieces of "gray tape" in the cabin air filter.

  • Part of the right rear fender fell off the lunar rover during both Apollo 16 and 17. Apollo 16 did not repair the fender, and got showered in dust kicked up by the rover. Apollo 17 first tried to re-attach the fender with tape, which did not stick and fell off while driving; they then fashioned a replacement from tape and paper maps. An anomaly "Determine cause for gray tape not sticking properly" was investigated post-flight.

  • Apollo 17 also taped some solar panels on an experiment package to stay flat. Prior to ascent from the moon, they swept the lunar dust into holes in the LM floor, and then taped those holes shut to keep the dust out of the cabin.

It would not surprise me if gray tape were used on the Shuttle and ISS, but someone else should write that answer.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This is great, thanks! I know it's a lot of work, but presumably these are coming from sources and not personal memory. Hopevully each of these will eventually cite a source. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 8:08
  • 13
    $\begingroup$ The first bullet point is from the stowage lists, and all of the others are from the mission reports. I have all of these official NASA documents in my personal collection, and will hunt down their on-line links tomorrow. $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 8:17
  • $\begingroup$ Given the info, the IP should be able to find the links... $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ An anomaly "Determine cause for gray tape not sticking properly" was investigated post-flight is there any record of the finding of that investigation? $\endgroup$
    – dwizum
    Commented Sep 17, 2019 at 14:30
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @dwizum: Yes. The anomaly is listed in the mission report with "Result: Bonding properties were within specification." $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Commented Sep 17, 2019 at 14:45

When I was in shuttle Endeavour's cockpit in May 2008 (the Orbiter was in the Orbiter Processing Facility) I noticed this duct tape applied to the aft Multifunction Display Unit.

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(personal photo)

Two missions later, on STS-127, this in-space photo shows that there appears to be even more duct tape applied.

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(NASA image source: https://images.nasa.gov/details-s127e006608)

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(Same image, annotated by me)

I found this great picture1 from STS-82 showing a roll of duct tape floating on the flight deck.

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From Rhea Seddon's memoir Go For Orbit, her husband "Hoot" Gibson with a roll on STS-27.

He claimed this secret flight was really a test of duct tape.

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The book goes into some detail about using duct tape to build the "flyswatters" as pictured in Adam's answer.

Hubble dual duct tape ops from STS-125 - looks like a laptop restraint.1

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Screenshot showing duct tape holding cables in place on the Orbiter's flight deck during the STS-107 entry. Video recovered by searchers on the ground. Camera being held by mission specialist in the right rear seat and is pointing up at panel O17.

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Very early duct tape sighting from the middeck during STS-4

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Source: What kind of "safe" was carried on the Space Shuttles?

Even two rolls of duct tape could not restrain this space hair.

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(Image credit: NASA)

1 This picture was sourced from spaceflight.nasa.gov. Now that site has been stripped of all its content, and I could not find the image on images.nasa.gov

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ That's beautiful, literally and conceptually as well. The Shuttle had long-term duct tape, who'da thunk it? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 12:59
  • 13
    $\begingroup$ @uhoh I was kind of shocked to see it which is why I took the photo. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 13:02
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Just if anyone else don't immediately make the connection that these two pictures are of the same thing: The first photo that Organic Marble took is taken from close to the window in the in-space photo, picturing the side of the monitor behind his head. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 14:45
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Another example from the Shuttle program was STS-90, which was an extended duration mission. Normal Shuttle missions used canisters of lithium hydroxide to remove CO2 from the breathing atmosphere. That approach limited how long an Orbiter could orbit the Earth. The Extended Duration Orbiter hardware included the Regenerative CO2 Removal System to overcome that limitation. The RCRS failed on STS-90. The fix that enabled the mission to complete was to cut a line open and patch it shut with aluminum tape. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 16:02
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen when a question basically boils down to "provide examples", as this one does, more answers with more examples are encouraged. $\endgroup$
    – hobbs
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 21:10

My favorite use to DT during the shuttle program was by Story Musgrave. He had problems with his communication gear, so here was his solution:

Story taped headset to his head

I recall other photos of his engineering solution, but I have not been able to find them right now.

It was also used to assemble the "fly swatter" for satellite repair on STS-51D: Fly Swatters in use during EVA Fly swatters before use

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That's priceless! $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 14:49
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ For those who cannot see pictures, it would be best if you described what the picture shows (at least the portion relevant to the question). $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 14:53
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ @called2voyage I can see the picture, and I still can't understand exactly what I'm looking at! An explanation is definitely called for. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 15:12
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ @uhoh He seems to have taped a headset to the the side of his head. $\endgroup$
    – 8bittree
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Adam more images from STS-6 are located here (science.ksc.nasa.gov/mirrors/images/images/pao/STS6), including a larger version of the image on the left in your post. However due to the general rotting of NASA web resources, there does not seem to be an index page, so you have to click through the links one by one. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 15:36

How often is duct tape used during crewed space missions?

So often now that NASA has requested the development a proper "space duct tape dispenser"!

Space.com's NASA taps high school students for space station duct tape dispenser begins:

For more than 50 years, NASA astronauts have relied on duct tape as a fix-it-all for everything from a lunar rover on the moon to an air leak on board the International Space Station. Up until now, though, they have not had an easy way to dispense the adhesive.

Enter high school students from five different states, who have come up with the solution.

SpaceX Crew-1 commander Mike Hopkins, a flight engineer on the space station's Expedition 64 crew, recently demonstrated the HUNCH tape dispenser aboard the orbiting laboratory.

"This tape dispenser I think is going to find a lot of use here on the International Space Station," said Hopkins in a recorded video showing the device in action.

Duct Tape on the International Space Station

A view of the HUNCH (High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware) tape dispenser aboard the International Space Station. The new tool is expected to improve efficiency of operations and scientific research on the space station. (Image credit: NASA)

Duct Tape on the International Space Station

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins is shown using the HUNCH (High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware) tape dispenser with a roll of Kapton high temperature tape on board the International Space Station on March 4, 2021. (Image credit: NASA)

Duct Tape on the International Space Station

Prior to the HUNCH (High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware) tape dispenser, duct, Kapton and other tapes were dispensed using scissors and affixed between use. (Image credit: NASA)


1) In June 2007 there was a major computer failure on International Space Station, which

left the station without thrusters, oxygen generation, carbon dioxide scrubber, and other environmental control systems, causing the temperature on the station to rise.

The root cause of the failure was found to be

[the] condensation inside the electrical connectors, which led to a short-circuit that triggered the power off command to all three of the redundant processing units.

This article by James Oberg, a 22-year veteran of NASA mission control, explains in details the sequence of events and factors contributing to the computer failure (moisture condensation and design fault that allowed powering down all three redundant units at the same time); and claims the use of gray (duct) tape when securing an improvised thermal barrier in order to aid in protecting the replacement computers from moisture:

They [the cosmonauts] also decided to rig a thermal barrier out of a surplus reference book and all-purpose gray tape.

2) The famous case of discovering the hole (August 2018) in Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft docked to ISS.

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This news article reports the use of duct tape as a temporary measure to cover the hole (although wikipedia MS-09 article refers to the tape as "Kapton tape"):

European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst initially plugged the gap with his finger, before using duct tape to cover the hole, preventing more air leaking into space.

Later, the two Russian spacemen put sealant on a cloth and stuck it over the area.

This article cites Chris Hadfield's tweet:

When your spaceship suddenly starts leaking air, you fix the hole with duct tape & a gob of epoxy. Nice save, @Space_Station crew!

Emphasis mine.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Some more great examples! $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 13:52

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