CAPE CANAVARAL, Fla., Jan. 28, 1986 (UPI) -- For want of a battery to fix the drill to fix the nut to fix the hatch -- for want of all that, the launch was lost.
So it went Monday for the shuttle Challenger.
Challenger's mission of learning for the schoolchildren of America had been delayed five times before Monday's abortive launch attempt. Each of those delays could be traced to a clear-cut cause: weather twice, and postponements of the preceding flight of the shuttle Columbia three times.
The planned blastoff Monday, however, fell victim to a string of smaller problems before deteriorating weather finally forced its cancellation.
Of all those problems, perhaps the most frustrating was the dead battery in a drill -- much like the rechargable cordless drills found in hardware stores -- that was needed to remove a hatch handle bolt with a frozen nut.
But for that dead battery, the flight might have threaded a gap between bands of bad weather and gotten away close to its planned 9:37 a.m. EST launch time.
''We had a period of time from about 9:37 a.m. until about 10:15 a.m. where we could have made it,'' shuttle operations chief Robert Sieck said.
Problems with Challenger's hatch started about an hour and a half before launch time, when technicians closed the 40-inch round door and indicator lights showed it was not securely locked.
After opening and closing the hatch several times and inspecting the locks, technicians concluded the indicators were faulty. They put some extra sealing material on the hatch and fastened it shut.
At that point, Sieck said, operations were only slightly behind schedule.
Then came a task that should have taken only about five minutes -- removal of the tubular steel handle bolted to the outside of the 294-pound hatch so it could be opened and closed easily during launch preparations.
Technicians found the star-shaped grooves in one of the nuts attaching the handle to 5-16th inch bolts in Challenger's hatch frame had been stripped, making it impossible to remove the nut normally.
Efforts to deal with that problem at times resembled a comedy of errors.
The group of technicians outside Challenger's hatch grew from four to five, then to six, then to seven. As the clock ticked, they tried various repair methods, waited for new tools and repeatedly shook their heads.
The first tool selected was a drill -- powered by an internal battery to reduce the risk of igniting any vapors around the shuttle -- which it was hoped would grind out the nut and bolt so the handle could be removed.
The drill arrived about 9:45 a.m., and launch officials predicted the handle would be off within 15 minutes.
But the drill's battery died.
''We took up a battery-powered drill that worked fine until you put a good, heavy load on it,'' Sieck said. ''(The battery) just didn't have the horsepower to cut it out.''
Then came ''a lot of scurrying around'' for another battery-powered drill, Sieck said. Time passed, and the winds began to rise.
Finally, Sieck said, safety rules were waived and two plug-in drills were rushed to the launch tower along with a crew equipped to make sure no flammable vapors were present.
One of the second two drills finally removed the nut by 10:45 a.m., and 25 minutes later the hatch crew was safely away from the launch tower. By then, however, the rising wind had made Monday's launch opportunity history.