This is a Zero Centurion Elite flight case. It was used to transport the Flight Model (FM) harness assembly for Cassini’s magnetometer to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory back in the 1990s. It has a three-numeral combination lock embedded into it. The last time this combination was opened was at least four years ago. I watched my then-boss, Steve (now retired), open the lock, show me the case internals, and then lock it again.
I remember chuckling at the combination.
(Not the combination).
You can see where this is going, I assume.
I was supposed to “deal with” the case some time ago, but other things kept taking priority. Then I left the lab. Then Covid happened.
Finally I made my recent trip down to the lab. I extracted the case from beneath the pile of stuff that had accumulated on top of it. I looked at the combination lock. I tried the obvious combinations (000, 123, 666, etc). Did any of those work? Of course not.
Here is a list of other things that didn’t work.
- Talking through the scenario four years ago with my ex-boss in the hopes of jogging my memory
- Wiggling a screwdriver in the gap between the lid and the body of the case whilst trying random combinations
- Wiggling a screwdriver in the gap between the lid and the body of the case whilst methodically going through every possible combination of three-digit numbers
- Drinking wine
- Watching YouTube videos about picking combination locks on suitcases and trying to hear or feel the difference in the clicks between numbers
- Discovering that three of the numbers (6,6, and 6) had black lines drawn under them, presumably to remind everyone of the combination (PS I KNEW IT)
- Drinking gin
- Applying graphite to the rotating number wheels
- Applying whisky to the humans
- Trying 666 with the screwdriver trick while swearing and wiggling a screwdriver in the gap
- Trawling the internet for clues about how to pick Zero Centurion (which later became Halliburton) locks, finding many blog posts about how to reset it from the inside if you already know the combination
- Giving it a firm whack
Here is what did work.
- This blog post, dug up by friend-who-is-not-in-the-journalsphere-a
ny-more whose Google-fu is mightiest
- Following its instructions and tapping out the hinge pin with a small punch and a hammer, then extracting it with pliers
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