It’s hard to imagine a situation that is more demanding than travelling into deep space. But astronauts just like people who keep to the earth, are empowered by tools they carry called knives. It’s hard to predict the difficult circumstances astronauts might run into – making carrying a knife especially important. And, with the cost of sending payload into orbit, astronauts need to pack light.
Knives in Space: Emerson
When NASA needed a rugged folding knife that could also open MRE rations, Emerson produced a version of their Specwar knife with an added notch near the tip to ‘zip’ open the pesky packages. Only 30 were ever produced. NASA has been cooperating with the Russian Space Program since 2001 — maybe that’s how this Russian cosmonaut was able to score one of these rare gems – you can watch him in this YouTube video using it to slice some salami for a zero-g snack .
Knives in Space: Randall
Knives have been part of the space program since man’s ambition to travel past the earth’s atmosphere were realized. During Project Mercury which saw the US put the first man into orbit, astronauts carried custom ‘Astro’ fixed blade survival knives with a large guard and a 5.5 inch blade made by Randall Knives.
Designed by astronaut Gordon Cooper (Dennis Quaid portrayed him in the film ‘The Right Stuff’), the Randall knives were strong enough to pry open the capsule hatch if needed, and featured a hollow handle to store survival essentials in case the capsule landed in rough terrain or behind enemy lines. Today, two of these historic knives are on display at the Smithsonian. You can pick up today’s version of the Randall Astro for $550 off the Randall website.
Knives in Space: Case
For the Gemini and Apollo missions, NASA commissioned a new astronaut survival knife, the M-1, from W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Co. Fitted with a lightweight plastic handle, a 17″ blade, and saw teeth along the back of the blade, these tools were more machete than knife. The base of the blade was left blunt so it could be used for prying. The Gemini and Apollo capsules were designed to splashdown in the ocean near the equator, and the Case M-1 that accompanied them was made for use in the jungle in case they landed off course.
SAKs in Space: Victorinox
For the Space Shuttle program, NASA commissioned Victorinox to provide astronauts with a SAK as part of their personal equipment. Astronaut Chris Hadfield used his ‘Master Craftsmen’, to break into the Russian space station Mir, because the last crew had sealed up the hatch “just a little too enthusiastically.” The Master Craftsmen have been discontinued but are very similar to the Huntsman.
NASA is preparing for the upcoming Soyuz Taxi Flight on September 1st. Though NASA media people were too busy to find the answer, two things are certain – they are packing knives and someone in the knife world made them.