January 27, 2010

The Int'l Space Station's Plumber

HOUSTON, TX -- What do you do when you have a clogged toilet 220 miles from earth? You call Herman Plunck, "space plumber"! The terrestrial owner of Plunck's Plumbing in Houston has been working with NASA since repairing the latrine in Skylab in 1974.

Mr. Plunck explains how - with no prior flight experience - he was chosen to be NASA's unofficial plumbing contractor, "Well, in '74 they put the contract out for terlet [toilet] repairs as some kind of sub-contract for something else. Something bigger, jets or some such, don't remember. Anyhow, they needed to have a small business represented because of this here small business regulation. My cousin heard 'bout it and was funning with me one night after work, said I should submit a proposal. I did. I got that one, and the government contract officers say it's easier just to keep going with the same contractor, what with the paperwork and all."

He has made 4 spaceflights, including that first one. "Over the years I've fixed clogged sinks, stuck terlets, showers - all kinds of stuff up there" he says, pointing skyward. "I even have special space tools that the government bought for me" he states, gesturing toward a bag containing what appear to be ordinary plumbing tools spray-painted silver.

While Mr. Plunck only gets called every 10 years or so, he does his best to keep in shape in between flights, "I chase my dog.  Mostly when he grabs the remote and runs off. Durn dog."

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