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"SF looks towards an imaginary future, while fantasy, by and large, looks towards an imaginary past."
- Frederik Pohl

Alpha Insert  
  A special compound used to seal punctures in space craft.  

Very handy stuff.

The Arcturus almost collided with us, just skimmed by, slicing a long sliver from our outer skin. You should have heard the air rushing out... I took a gang out to repair her...

We got her sealed up, though, with Alpha Insert, enough to finish the trip.* Her air was gone, and we had to put all the passengers and crew in space suits..."

* Alpha Insert is a compound possessing a remarkable affinity for metals of all kinds; its molecules hooked up in close union almost instantaneously, hardening to a toughness comparable with that of beryllium-steel itself.

From Exiles of the Moon, by Nat Schachner (w. AL Zagat).
Published by Wonder Stories in 1931
Additional resources -

Here's what it's like to plug a small hole in the hull:

"Here, Dore, get some Alpha plugging compound..."

Garry was explaining that a tiny meteor had drilled through the air-lock.

He scooped some Alpha Insert out of its canister, deftly rolled a little pellet, whipped away the coat [which had been stuffed into the hole], clapped the highly agglutinated alloy into the round hole. It spread immediately into a smooth, perfect plug.

Compare to the quartzite leak foil from The Great Dome of Mercury (1932) by Leo Zagat, plastifoam from Collision Orbit (1941) by Jack Williamson and self-sealing plastic from Asteroid of Fear (1951) by Raymond Z. Gallun.

Another way to plug holes in spacecraft or other constructions in space is to bring some other material to put in place over the hole. Consider the quartzite leak foil from The Great Dome of Mercury (1932) by Leo Zagat, tag-along balloons from Gentlemen, Be Seated (1948) by Robert Heinlein, leak disks from Islands in the Sky (1952) by Arthur C. Clarke and plug-ups from Passage at Arms (1985) by Glen Cook.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Exiles of the Moon
  More Ideas and Technology by Nat Schachner (w. AL Zagat)
  Tech news articles related to Exiles of the Moon
  Tech news articles related to works by Nat Schachner (w. AL Zagat)

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