What Cable Wrangling Technique Kept Wires Tidy During NASA’s Moon Missions?
Answer: Cable Lacing
These days we secure our cables with Velcro straps and the ubiquitous plastic zip ties (also called cable ties). In an age before zip ties, however, cables were contained in a more organic and hand-crafted way.
How organic and hand-crafted? Although there are minor variations in cable lacing technique across geographic regions and applications, the core of the technique is consistent. The wires are neatly bundled using spools of wax-impregnated cotton string–a sort of heavy duty dental floss, if you will.
At set intervals along the cable bundle the string is laced about it, using a simple knot. This continues for the whole length of the cable run, repeating whenever a new cable joins in. The finished product, even when compared to modern cable securing techniques, has a few advantages. The chances, for example, of grossly deforming or abrading the cable insulation is nearly zero and the cable lacing itself adds so little bulk to the bundle of wires that sliding the bundle through conduits is easy as there is no protrusion to catch.
Everyone from amateur radio operators to electronics hobbyists to the engineers at NASA used a technique known as “cable lacing” to secure permanent cable runs. When we put a man on the moon, deep within the moon lander, all those hundreds of feet of cables were carefully and artfully secured with NASA’s precise cable lacing techniques.
Although the method has largely fallen out of favor it is still practiced by NASA in specific applications (and is still included in their Cable and Harness: General Requirements guidelines found in the NASA Workmanship Standards). The technique has undergone somewhat of a revival in the last few years, a cursory internet search turns up dozens of tutorials showing you how to lace your cables like it’s 1969.