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Although they could have many contingency uses during a flight, the key role of these surgical scissors on the Apollo missions was actually to open plastic spoon-bowl food pouches.




Apollo-era scissors

NASA description: SCISSORS
Manufacturer: Weck
Model: unknown
Dimensions: approx 8" (20cm) long
Weight: approx 0.5lb (227g)
NASA part no.: SDB42100059-202
No. carried/mission: 3
No. carried in LM: 2
NASA usage: Apollo project onwards

The scissors carried by Mike Collins on Apollo 11

The Apollo stowage lists show that each astronaut carried a pair of scissors on their pressure garment assembly at launch.

ITEM NUMBER PART NUMBER NOMENCLATURE STOWAGE LOCATION UNIT WEIGHT QTY/ SC
B 0204. SDB42100059-202 SCISSORS ON PGA .5 3

Scissors entries from the Apollo 10-17 Stowage Lists

In fact the scissors were kept in a dedicated pocket that was strapped on top the legs of their pressure suit garment at launch and transferred to the leg of the in-flight coverall garment once in space. The scissors of the Commander and Lunar Module Pilot traveled with them in the lunar module and back on the lunar landing missions.

Each pair of scissors came with a lanyard that tied them to piece of plastic with a metal snap fastener attached. This male snap fastener connected to a female fastener that was incorporated into the flap of the scissors pockets the astronauts wore on their legs. The lanyard prevented the heavy and sharp scissors from becoming a free-flying hazard in the weightless spacecraft interior whilst still allowing them to be used easily.

Despite this lanyard, one pair of scissors still managed to get misplaced, as related by Apollo 17 Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt:

Ron Evans with his scissors on Apollo 17

"Each of us had a pair of scissors which normally traveled with us, but Ron lost his on the trip out from Earth. We had a lot of fun kidding him on the way out and all the way back about losing his scissors in a spacecraft which was, after all, not very big. But the complication was that the whole timeline on the surface was geared to having two pairs of scissors. With two pairs, Gene and I could leave one pair in the cabin and take the other pair outside - probably as a contingency tool - and not have to worry about taking it up and down (the ladder). However, because you needed the scissors to cut the plastic food bags, we finally condescended to leave one pair with Ron so that he could eat. And ultimately his scissors were found. I found them as we were preparing stowage for re-entry; but was able to signal to Gene that I'd found them without Ron knowing it. We continued to give him a pretty hard time [...] At the splashdown party we had at the Flight Control Division - probably a month after the mission - we presented the scissors to Ron with great fanfare."[1]

As with other items of personal equipment, the Apollo astronauts were allowed to keep their scissors after their flights as momentos.

In total, twenty seven pairs of scissors were flown to the moon on board the Apollo lunar missions as part of the personal equipment of the astronauts. Eleven of those pairs were carried to the lunar surface in the lunar modules. What would have been the twelfth lunar surface pair remained on the CM during Apollo 17 as noted above.

Schmitt's comments above imply that at least one of the two pairs of LM-flown scissors on each mission were actually carried outside during the EVAs. In fact this has since been confirmed by Dave Scott who stated that on Apollo 15 both he and Jim Irwin carried their scissors in a dedicated pocket of their space suits during the EVAs.

FLOWN availability - The Apollo astronauts were allowed to keep their scissors after the mission and some of these have since been sold at auction, as noted in the Annex below.

Unflown availability - NASA-issue scissors used in training are likely to exist but may be as difficult to track down as flown examples, but vintage Weck scissors of the same design used by NASA can be found from time to time on eBay.


Annex: Flown scissors sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections

Mssn.AstronautStatusItemP/NS/NSold viaSale DateLot no.PriceReference / Notes
GT6SchirraFLOWNScissors20542112RRAuctionMay 23 2013183$3,061Auction listing  
GT10unknownFLOWNScissors20542118RRAuctionJun 25 20155018UNSOLDAuction listing  
RRAuctionOct 23 20159127$10,450Auction listing  
AS7SchirraCM FLOWNScissorsSDB42100059-2021003Odyssey199483$460Sold with lanyard
HeritageNov 2 201240099$5,079Auction listing  
AS7SchirraCM FLOWNLanyardSDB 42100118-7021018See sales record of Scissors above
AS7CunninghamCM FLOWNScissorsOdyssey1994154$518
AS9McDivittLM FLOWNScissorsSDB42100059-2021056Private collection.
LanyardSDB 42100118-7021019
AS9SchweickartLM FLOWNScissorsSDB42100059-2021005RRAuctionApr 23 2015128UNSOLDSold with pockets ; Auction listing  
LanyardSDB 42100118-7021020
AS9ScottCM FLOWNScissorsSDB42100059-2021006RRAuctionAug 13 2014430$19,501Auction listing  
AS11ArmstrongLM FLOWNScissorsSDB42100059-2021013
LanyardSDB 42100118-702unknown
AS11AldrinLM FLOWNScissorsSDB42100059-2021015HeritageFall 200725366$31,070No lanyard.
Auction listing 
AS11AldrinLM FLOWNLanyardSDB 42100118-702unknownPeachStateunknownn/aunknownSold with scissor pocket.
Auction listing 
AS11CollinsCM FLOWNScissorsSDB42100059-2021014Part of Smithsonian collection, NASMNASM collection 
LanyardSDB 42100118-702unknown
AS12BeanLM FLOWNScissorsSDB42100059-2021016HeritageMay 14 201440161$100,000Auction listing 
LanyardSDB 42100118-7021034
AS12GordonCM FLOWNScissorsSDB42100059-2021018AuroraApr 4 2004546$5,750Auction listing 
LanyardSDB 42100118-7021036
AS13HaiseCM FLOWNLanyardSDB 42100118-7021042HeritageApr 18 201340131$11,950Sold with pockets.
Auction listing 
AS15ScottLM FLOWNScissorsSDB42100059-2021028RRAuctionApr 28 2015257UNSOLDNo lanyard
RRAuctionJul 15 2015537UNSOLDNo lanyard
RRAuctionOct 23 20159402UNSOLDNo lanyard
RRAuctionJun 15 2016485$26,908No lanyard ; Auction listing 
AS15ScottLM FLOWNLanyardSDB 42100118-70210??RRAuctionApr 28 2015257UNSOLDTab only ; Auction listing 
AS15IrwinLM FLOWNScissorsSDB42100059-2021030SwannApr 17 2008153$10,755No lanyard
AS15WordenCM FLOWNScissorsSDB42100059-2021029HeritageNov 2 201240188$8,365No lanyard.
Auction listing 
AS16MattinglyCM FLOWNScissorsSDB42100059-2021033SuperiorOct 23 19991000$2,760Stolen from Kansas Cosmosphere
LanyardSDB 42100118-702unknown
AS17CernanLM FLOWNScissorsSDB42100059-2021035HeritageMar 26 200858033$17,925Auction listing 
LanyardSDB 42100118-7021073
AS17EvansCM FLOWNScissorsSDB42100059-2021019HeritageApr 1 200941026$5,975Auction listing 
LanyardSDB 42100118-7021074
SLIIIGibsonFLOWNLanyardSDB 42100118-7021025Farthest ReachesFor Salen/a$1,000Website 
Footnotes :

[1] Extract from Apollo Lunar Surface Journal.

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