Knots on Mars! Hard to Improve on a Clove Hitch and a Reef Knot

Square knots and clove hitches on wire bundles on the Mars Rover Curiosity

There is a wonderful discussion on the International Guild of Knot Tyers Forum titled “Knots on Mars! (and a few thoughts on NASA’s knots)” by Dfred.   I had never given much thought as to  how cable bundles on satellites and space craft are secured. The answer is some very old sailor’s knots.  Dfred writes:

While a few of the folks here are no doubt aware, it might surprise most people to learn that knots tied in cords and thin ribbons have probably traveled on every interplanetary mission ever flown. If human civilization ends tomorrow, interplanetary landers, orbiters, and deep space probes will preserve evidence of both the oldest and newest of human technologies for millions of years.

Dfar comments on the knots used on the Mars Rover Curiosity.  Two of the more common knots used, often in combination, are the clove hitch and the square or reef knot.   Dfred suggests that these knots are popular because they are time proven, exert even pressure on the bundles, can be tightened under control and remain strong even if improperly tied.   The knots themselves are ancient:

The Reef Knot and Clove Hitch are extremely ancient.  Both were discussed in detail as surgical and orthopedic knots and slings by Greek physician Heraklas in the 1st Century AD.  The Reef Knot is depicted with varying degrees of realism in ancient Egyptian statuary and hieroglyphics as far back as 4000-5000 years ago.  I presume there would be little disagreement here that these two knots must be among the oldest of the purposeful, standardized knots used by humans.   You simply cannot get more field-tested than this!

From ancient Egypt to the dusty plains of Mars, sailor’s knots still do their jobs.  Thanks to Doug faunt on facebook for pointing out the article.

This entry was posted in Current, Lore of the Sea, Rigging and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Knots on Mars! Hard to Improve on a Clove Hitch and a Reef Knot

  1. Diego says:

    Love this!