Moon landing anniversary: SA’s sticky invention honoured for holding mission together

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Exactly fifty years ago, on 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon. But he had a little help from a sticky South African invention.

Pratley Putty, invented by Krugersdrop resident George Montague (Monty) Pratley, was used by NASA on the space craft.

Initially introduced to the market as Pratley Plastic Putty, the South African invention was used to attach some component of the landing craft, and was carried by astronauts in case repairs were needed on the moon.

This year, Pratley Putty also landed a new first: It will be cast as part of the SA Mint’s “South African inventions” commemorative coin series.

According to a statement by SA Mint, the putty was used on the Ranger 9 spacecraft, the last of a series of unmanned spacecraft developed to probe the moon, in preparation for manned missions to the moon.

“This American spacecraft was the first to land and capture photographs of the moon, thus helping to lay the groundwork for the successful moon landing and safe return of the NASA Apollo XI mission,” the statement says.

The series of commemorative coins honouring notable South African inventions was launched in 2016, “to highlight globally relevant inventions and firsts by South Africans”.

The epoxy putty, a world first in the ’60s, was initially intended for use in attaching terminals to electrical junction boxes, according to a statement by Pratley Adhesives.

News24 previously reported that, among other things, Pratley used it for a robot named Humphrey, which he built from metal waste, gluing the robot parts together with his own invention.

The product was signed to Atlas Minerals for production in the USA, but the company had not started production in time for the NASA mission – this required the product be imported from South Africa. It remains the only South African invention to have travelled to the moon.

The 2019 SA Mint coin collection be honoured on a R1 Krugerrand, with the Ranger 9 privy mark, and a R2 sterling-silver crown, which depicts the earth as seen from the moon. Only 500 coins will be minted.

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