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"In 1970 I found little difficulty staying 30 years ahead of the man in the street, and now I find it difficult to stay 18 months ahead of the man on the street."
- Vernor Vinge

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 tagalongs from Gentlemen, Be Seated (1948), by Robert Heinlein.

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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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