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Dodgy oxygen generator? Sorted

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There is some welcome news today for International Space Station residents Salizhan Sharipov and Leroy Chiao who have been gamely battling for some time to fix the ISS's cantakerous Elektron oxygen generator. They will shortly be favoured by a visit from a British plumber who, according to a recommendation from one of Sharipov's mates down the pub, will "do the job for cash if you don't fancy paying the VAT".

We fully expect that this will be an end to the matter. British plumbers are highly regarded among the international scientific community for their punctuality, high standards and reasonable prices. Of course, it's taken Dave and his apprentice Doug a while to reach Baikonur cosmodrome in their white Transit, not to mention the nightmare they had finding a decent cafe in Ukraine, so we at Vulture Central had time to run the scenario through our Visiting Tradesman Emulator™ - a program designed by Reg boffins to predict how the historic repair mission will unfold. The results may surprise you:

ISS. 8am GMT. Thursday. There is a knock at the airlock.

Salizhan Sharipov: (Opening inner airlock door) Hello?
Dave the Plumber: Hello mate. I'm Dave. Here about the oxygen generator...
Sharipov: But you said you'd be here in October...
Dave: Yeah, well, got a bit held up on a job for the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Can't be helped, mate. Stick the kettle on, I'm gasping. Got any biscuits? Rich Tea would be nice but we'll settle for HobNobs. Doug! Get the bloody tools out of the shuttle and shut the bloody door. It's brass monkeys in here.

Two hours later...

Dave: Nice cuppa, cheers. Right, let's get to it. It's an Elektron you say? Never liked 'em meself. Can't get the parts. You'd be better off with a German model. Of course, you've got to order 'em special, takes about three weeks for delivery...

Dave whips out battery-powered pocket radio, tunes it to Radio One and cranks the volume up to full before prising the cover off the Elekron with a screwdriver.

Leroy Chiao: We thought it might be gas bubbles in the pipework...
Dave: Yeah right. Tell you what, you leave the dodgy plumbing to me and we'll let you get on with your going boldly where no man has gone before. Agreed? But stick the kettle on before engaging the warp drive, would'ya? I'm gasping here. Doug! Chuck me the number eight flange rotivator. No, not that one, you plonker - the one that looks like a 10-pound lump hammer.

One hour later...

Sharipov: How's it looking?
Dave: (Sucking air through teeth and shaking head in a very serious manner) Jesus. Who installed this mate? Didn't know you had cowboys in Russia. It's gonna cost yer...
Chiao: Yes, but how much?
Dave: Dunno. I'll have to go to the wholesalers and get the trade prices. Basically, you've got a knackered interchange loop, the pump intercompressor is completely f***ed and your diagnostic board has burnt out. Oh yeah, and some pillock has bolloxed the cover by prising it off with a screwdriver. Doug, get the tools back in the shuttle sharpish.
Sharipov: Hold on a minute... We need this fixed today. We've just used three quarters of our remaining oxygen boiling the kettle.
Dave: No need to be like that pal. I said I can only come out and have a look. If I carried a full set of spares for every crappy Russian-built oxygen generator on the market I'd need a van like Doctor bloody Who's bloody Tardis, wouldn't I?
Chiao: Wait, I've just noticed that the main power supply lead is loose. I think a terminal screwdriver would do it. Have you got one handy?
Dave: Bloody hell. The tools are in the airlock now mate. I'll have to charge you another call-out fee if the boy's gonna piss-arse about bringing the whole lot back in...

At this point Sharipov angrily attempts to throw a packet of freeze-dried bourbon biscuits on the floor in a fit of pique but, due to the absence of gravity, it simply floats harmlessly over Dave's shoulder.

Dave: Alright, I tell you what - two grand cash and no questions asked. And stick the kettle on. Me throat's drier than a eunuch's codpiece...®

Related stories

ISS plumbing plays up again
ISS crew blasts off
Broken oxygen generator threatens space station

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