Preparing to Pull the Plutonium

Al Bean Extracts the Fuel Element from the Cask

Copyright Date 2000
Completed 2001
10 x 15 inches, Textured Acrylic on Aircraft Board

Here I am on the Ocean of Storms. My cuff checklist indicates that it is time for me to pull our plutonium fuel element out of its graphite cask and place it inside the SNAP-27 electrical generator. This should be a "snap", as I've practiced the procedure in training back on planet Earth many times without any problems.

I cannot be careless with the plutonium though, because even using this special handling tool the plutonium is super hot, hot enough to melt through my pressure suit if I were to touch it long enough. Not a really good idea unless I want to spend the next few billion years up here on the Ocean of Storms. First I take the tool and turn the handle on the near end counterclockwise. This will cause the three metal fingers on the far end to spread out wide so I can place them around the end of the fuel element. Okay...the fingers (each with a little pin attached) are lined up with the holes in the fuel element. Now I hold the tool steady with my left hand and then turn the handle clockwise. The fingers are moving in. I adjust the alignment...keep turning. Careful. I've got to be careful and gentle in these clumsy gloves because if I break off a metal finger or pin the plutonium will stay locked inside the cask and there will be no power for our ALSEP experiments. There, the pins are in, the locks are disengaged, and I'm ready to remove the element. It looks like all is going according to plan, the hard part is complete...at least I think so!

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