so that's where the waste management cover went to
February 8, 2015 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Secret stash of Moon artifacts found hidden in Neil Armstrong's closet. The artifacts have been sent to the National Air and Space Museum for research and preservation. The article shows pictures of each one and where it was used in the Lunar Module. Even more detail over at nasa.gov!
posted by moonmilk (70 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
It was hard to get my dad to throw away junk from his job after retirement, too.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:04 PM on February 8, 2015 [32 favorites]


These are fantastic finds! Good on the Armstrong family for sharing them.

But why the rear view mirror, eh?
/conspiracy
posted by arcticseal at 12:19 PM on February 8, 2015


This what I imagine was going through Armstrong's head when decided to kept this stuff:
"I spent years dealing with that asshole Aldrin during training, then steered this goddamn thing away from the field of boulders the fucking computer was taking us into, then landed this monstrosity on the Moon so sweetly, that the contact sensor didn't go off. Goddamn right I'm taking some souvenirs with me. You can have this shit when I'm dead."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:20 PM on February 8, 2015 [18 favorites]


Hans Landa: You'll be shot for this! 
Aldo Raine: Nah I don't think so. More like... chewed out. I've been chewed out before.
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 12:21 PM on February 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


Okay, I get it. But the waste management cover?
posted by Splunge at 12:24 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I totally love the idea that Armstrong had a bag of crap from the mission stashed in the closet that, every once in a while, he'd just kind of get it out and look at it and think about being on the fucking moon.

Sort of like the box of marginally functional junk I packed when I left my most recent full-time gig, except I reminisce about hanging out with a bunch of stoner nerds more than about being on the moon.
posted by brennen at 12:26 PM on February 8, 2015 [26 favorites]


I'm also amused that Neil managed to keep this stuff. Think about it, thentire crew spent 3 weeks in a trailer after the mission (because of foolish worries about Moon germs), then spent a lot of time being examined and giving debriefings. So one would expect that people went through all their bags and stuff, saw this bag and asked him about it and Neil just smiled and said "Yeah, that's just stuff I want to keep" and everyone just shrugged and said "Oh, ok." Ha!

I wish they had brought back the boots he wore on the Moon though, that would have been awesome.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:33 PM on February 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


But the waste management cover?

Joke re: "coverup" "load of shit"
posted by Sys Rq at 12:34 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


If anyone is allowed to take shit from the moon and throw it in a box in their closet to pull out from time to time, Neil fucking Armstrong is allowed.

It wouldn't shock me if Buzz has a similar stash, and if so, good on him. He earned it.
posted by chicobangs at 12:36 PM on February 8, 2015 [25 favorites]


Both Buzz and Michael Collins have auctioned off items they brought back from their trip. I don't think Neil ever auctioned off any stuff he kept.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:38 PM on February 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Thanks Obama!
posted by fullerine at 12:46 PM on February 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


His closet is where they filmed the fake lunar landing, right?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:56 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like how some of the stuff is so purpose-built that it's just, you know, taped together, like the utility light. It kind of explodes some childhood notion I have that everything put into space was this futuristic equipment manufactured in some space-age facility.

When in all probability that light was made at an unremarkable workbench with a roll of electrical tape and some spare parts.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:59 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Even more detail over at nasa.gov!

Detail?!? This level of research is incredible. They have transcripts of radio messages that mention the objects. They have photos of the objects in use, in flight and on the Moon. They have analysis of paint particles on the surfaces, and photos of where the paint came from. They have training manual images showing how the objects were intended to be used (and sketches of improvised uses). They have flight manual pages showing what the astronauts were reading when they were supposed to be using the items.

But I'll tell you what amazed me. I was looking at the coiled electric cords. At first glance, they seemed odd, with a copper layer outside where the insulator should be, and the ends were wrapped with white tape, probably teflon or some plastic sticky tape. But no. Zoom in, the wire is sheathed in mylar, and the ends are wrapped in handmade custom canvas enclosures, which is bound by woven fabric cord that is tied off with sloppy granny knots.

on Preview:

It kind of explodes some childhood notion I have that everything put into space was this futuristic equipment manufactured in some space-age facility.

When in all probability that light was made at an unremarkable workbench with a roll of electrical tape and some spare parts.


Not at all. Compare Utility Light S/N 0001 and Utility Light S/N 0002. They are identical in every detail. Well except maybe some of the fabricators knew how to tie a square knot, others didn't.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:05 PM on February 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


They are identical in every detail. Well except maybe some of the fabricators knew how to tie a square knot, others didn't.

The stuff on that site's amazing. That's kind of what I was getting at - these little differences that don't affect the utility of the item but hint at the manual process behind it.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:10 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wish they had brought back the boots he wore on the Moon though, that would have been awesome.

...He might have.

One of my favorite Armstrong stories is something one of my old bosses told about his family attending a party thrown by his in-laws; at the time, there was super-puffy snowboot popular with kids, which was nicknamed "the Moon Boot"; the boss's youngest daughter was three and had a new pair, and kept showing them off to people at the party.

My boss said that one of the people at the party was Neil Armstrong, and sure enough, his daughter walked up to him and proudly crowed, "look at my Moon Boots!" And according to my boss, Neil oohed and aahed over them a bit - then winked at her and said, "I have a pair of moon boots in my closet back home too."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:18 PM on February 8, 2015 [44 favorites]


This stash is answering a lot of questions I had about the most pressing of needs.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:23 PM on February 8, 2015


This takes a bit of the shine of one of my heroes - - I really didn't expect this type of petty thievery from him. :(
posted by fairmettle at 1:36 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Take stuff from work.
It's the best way to feel better about your job.
Never buy pens or pencils or paper.
Take 'em from work.
Rubber bands, paper clips, memo pads, folders
Take 'em from work.
It's the best way to feel better about your low pay
and appalling working conditions.
Take an ashtray they got plenty.
Take coat hangers.
Take a, take a trash can.
Why buy a file cabinet?
Why buy a phone?
Why buy a personal computer or word processor?
Take 'em from work.
I took a whole desk from the last place I worked.
They never noticed and it looks great in my apartment.
Take an electric pencil sharpener.
Take a case of white-out, you might need it one day.
It's your duty as an oppressed worker to steal from your exploiters.
It's gonna be an outstanding day.
Take stuff from work.
And goof off on company time.
I wrote this at work.
They're paying me to write about stuff I steal from them.
Life is good.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:48 PM on February 8, 2015 [17 favorites]


Slarty Bartfast is this your own composition?
posted by newdaddy at 1:53 PM on February 8, 2015


Not unless he's John S. Hall. It's King Missile.
posted by Segundus at 2:02 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


This takes a bit of the shine of one of my heroes - - I really didn't expect this type of petty thievery from him. :(

Given that we have stolen even the dream of stepping on the moon from the last few and probably next few generations of astronauts we might not want to judge the man too harshly.
posted by srboisvert at 2:04 PM on February 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


This takes a bit of the shine of one of my heroes

I think he did what a lot of people would have done in that situation - take souvenirs of a truly remarkable experience.

But if you need a stand-in, there's always Buzz Aldrin punching out the moon landing denial asshat.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:10 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's less stealing than, I don't know, dumpster diving?

The stuff was from the lunar module. After they re-docked with the command module, they jettisoned the LM and headed home. The LM wound up crashing into the moon.

We wouldn't have any of this stuff unless Armstrong had grabbed it.

(I think Lovell in the Apollo 13 book mentioned that the astronauts were allowed to keep some stuff. He grabbed an eyepiece, and maybe a few other things.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:32 PM on February 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


/shakes fist

ARMSTRONG!!!!!
posted by Sphinx at 2:33 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Now where's his secret full-quality copy of the moon landing video?

I know it's out there somewhere!
posted by shii at 2:41 PM on February 8, 2015


Now where's his secret full-quality copy of the moon landing video?

I know it's out there somewhere!


Bad news. It's on Betamax.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:44 PM on February 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


One thing that struck me was this photo -
FECAL EMESIS BAG
URINE BAG
FOOD
Food is at the bottom :(
posted by moonmilk at 3:20 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Think about it, thentire crew spent 3 weeks in a trailer after the mission (because of foolish worries about Moon germs)

I'd just like to point out that those weren't foolish worries at all. Microscopic lifeforms can be extraordinarily difficult to detect - which is why there's such complex science behind the Mars rovers. Biologists at the time agreed it was extremely unlikely there would be some sort of infectious agent on the Moon, but no one had ever been there and they didn't have any way to know for sure.

I always bristle when people look at obsolete science and call it foolish, because it implies that the people were simply not thinking things through. It would have been foolish if they'd known there was nothing there, but they didn't. These were top scientists working with the best information available to them at the time, and the decision to quarantine was made with sound logic.
posted by teponaztli at 3:22 PM on February 8, 2015 [37 favorites]


Not at all. Compare Utility Light S/N 0001 and Utility Light S/N 0002. They are identical in every detail. Well except maybe some of the fabricators knew how to tie a square knot, others didn't.

I would guess any differences in knots was intentional; NASA is quite serious about their knots.
posted by TedW at 3:39 PM on February 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


teponaztli: "Microscopic lifeforms can be extraordinarily difficult to detect - which is why there's such complex science behind the Mars rovers."

And also completely unadapted to human biology, or anything on Earth, really.
posted by pwnguin at 3:47 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


My husband went to the moon and all I got was this lousy box of priceless irreplaceable artefacts. How insane is it that there is new stuff we are finding new stuff from the fucking moon landing? Next week, John & Sandy Wright find a dusty old aeroplane in the garage they mistook for a corkscrew & cheeseboard set.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 3:58 PM on February 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I would guess any differences in knots was intentional; NASA is quite serious about their knots.

LOL I remember that FPP, although I haven't seen that PDF before. I also am quite serious about knots. I was particularly amused to see Page 84, the "Western Union/Linesman Splice" which I recognize because I have done it. I wonder who taught that to me, I didn't just come up with that by myself.

Upon closer inspection, those cloth sheathes look a bit like Figure 9-7 Securing Fabric Braid Sleeving.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:59 PM on February 8, 2015


I'd just like to point out that those weren't foolish worries at all.

Worrying was understandable, but the manner in which the astronauts were recovered leads me to think NASA knew the concerns was pretty foolish and was just going through the motions for the most part.

How did they get suits to the Apollo 11 to put on to contain the deadly Moon germs? By opening the spacecraft door and having frogmen throw the containment suits in. Naturally, the suits were fairly airtight, with no circulation, and the Apollo 11 astronauts wound up coming close to passing out until they could take off the suits in the Mobile Quarantine Facility.

So for Apollo 12, NASA seems to have said "fuck it" and just had that crew put put on flights suits and gas masks
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:04 PM on February 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Of course you take stuff home from work.

Drugs, sex and office supplies should never be paid for.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:31 PM on February 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I wish they had brought back the boots he wore on the Moon though, that would have been awesome.

Hm. I had heard that they brought the moon suits back but they don't exist anymore as they were taken apart thread by thread (in the name of science) in order to recover every last iota of moon dust.
posted by sexyrobot at 4:52 PM on February 8, 2015


(Stuffs explosives bolts in pants pocket)
posted by clavdivs at 5:27 PM on February 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh man, Neil Armstrong, has always been one of my heroes. OMFG! He seems even cooler now!
posted by evilDoug at 5:46 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


"And this bag is just full of self-sealing stem bolts, whatever -they- are."
posted by angerbot at 5:58 PM on February 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


No one buried him with that shit? How's he gonna hang in the afterlife without a Crewman Optical Alignment Sight?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:59 PM on February 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


You all might want to speculate what's in the back of Buzz Aldrin's closet.
Not me though.
One modern hero fallen for boosting office supplies is enough for me thanks.
posted by Fupped Duck at 6:43 PM on February 8, 2015


No one buried him with that shit? How's he gonna hang in the afterlife without a Crewman Optical Alignment Sight?

All Neil needs is a stick, a rudder and an Omega Speedmaster.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:06 PM on February 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


My sister and I just rediscovered my father's cache of Neil Armstrong documents. I never did understand the full story but somehow my dad and Armstrong were hanging out together flying gliders near Houston, some time after the moon landing. We have a personal letter from Armstrong to my dad, a copy of my father's glider pilot's license (maybe signed by Armstrong?), a publicity photo of the moon landing, etc. Neat stuff, I wish I could have asked my dad about it.

This level of research is incredible. They have transcripts of radio messages that mention the objects.

It is incredible. It's also worryingly like the fetishization of objects, maybe from a saint. We must revere these memories of the Man who went to the Moon because there will never be another. I'd rather that we were developing in a way that this kind of NASA junk were commonplace, every day, the shit lying around in the corners of the Nostromo or Serenity because someone didn't bother to go back and clean out the old spare parts locker last year.
posted by Nelson at 7:09 PM on February 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Food is at the bottom :(

Maybe less of an issue - heck, even preferable - in zero gravity?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:16 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I doubt those are bags for filled feces or urine, probably empty bags to use for those various items. The one for food might be a trash bag.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:46 PM on February 8, 2015


It's also worryingly like the fetishization of objects, maybe from a saint.

That sort of fetishization led to the construction of monumental cathedrals. Even an atheist can appreciate the beauty and the fact they took generations to build. Perhaps if we had more reverence for the Apollo program we would still be reaching out for the stars. The shuttle program became commonplace to the point nobody in the general public knew the launches were taking place.
posted by Brodiggitty at 7:50 PM on February 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


My boss said that one of the people at the party was Neil Armstrong, and sure enough, his daughter walked up to him and proudly crowed, "look at my Moon Boots!" And according to my boss, Neil oohed and aahed over them a bit - then winked at her and said, "I have a pair of moon boots in my closet back home too."

I think this is an urban legend. I have heard this same story several times.
posted by futz at 8:11 PM on February 8, 2015


I think he was secretly planning to build his own Lunar Module, one part at a time. He probably had a lot more stuff out the back.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:40 PM on February 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's under the basement, like in The Thing.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:02 PM on February 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Timely XKCD
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:54 PM on February 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


Food is at the bottom

There is no bottom in space, is there?
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:11 PM on February 8, 2015


(because of foolish worries about Moon germs)

Seems pretty practical to me as a safeguard, for a first touchdown on another world even if it does appear dead.

/I for one welcome, etc.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:27 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


(Ahh, what teponaztli said.)
posted by Drinky Die at 10:31 PM on February 8, 2015


There is no bottom in space, is there?

If that were the case, you wouldn't need the Fecal Emesis Bag.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:38 AM on February 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


The shuttle program became commonplace to the point nobody in the general public knew the launches were taking place.

With all due respect to the people who flew and worked on the shuttle missions: simply going to and returning from space is just not enough now, even though the science is worth doing and traveling and surviving safely in space is an achievement in and of itself. Just take a look at deep sea diving and polar exploration - it's still remarkable, but you're not going to capture most people's attention unless you're going someplace where no one has been before. If and when we as a species dedicate ourselves to sending human beings to Mars by putting our money where our mouths are, the public's fascination with space travel will return. Remember how excited people were for the Curiosity landing and that was just for a machine.
posted by longdaysjourney at 6:50 AM on February 9, 2015


When you're tired of the moon you're tired of life.
posted by dng at 7:04 AM on February 9, 2015


When you're tired of the moon you're tired of a barren clump of dust bereft of life.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:07 AM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


If and when we as a species dedicate ourselves to sending human beings to Mars by putting our money where our mouths are, the public's fascination with space travel will return.

Many people will be watching tv as people descend to Mars' surface for the first time. After that, eh, interest will die off. The general public has never been so fascinated with space that they're glued to the tv at all times. With today's multiple venues for media, it's probably impossible to rekindle that interest.

Which is fine! There's plenty of interesting work being done on the ocean floor that the general public doesn't care much about. But the work still should be done, no matter if a fickle public shows interest.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:14 AM on February 9, 2015


Not getting this 'stealing stuff from work' jazz. At worst, it's a few bits left over from a job he did - I've got tons of that stuff, bags of resistors and chips and the like, and even a very old server that ran telco billing software I wrote a manual for. The company sent me the server, I did the work, shut the server down and everyone (including me, it was pretty useless) forgot about it.

That's assuming that at no point Armstrong said to a superior "I'd like to keep this stuff, is that OK?" and the superior said "Of course." Armstrong was Hero of the World and NASA had plenty of stuff, there were no safety, operational or scientific issues, and we've seen how little NASA thought of far more important artifacts such as mission data after the event. Armstrong's closet looks less like a stash of paperclips and more like an invaluable archive, the existence of which brings joy to all.

And if you're still upset and beset by doubts: presumption of innocence should put your mind at rest.
posted by Devonian at 7:43 AM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Not getting this 'stealing stuff from work' jazz.

Pretty sure it's just people cracking jokes. You have to admit, there's a bit of humor to Armstrong keeping stuff from the time he landed on the Moon in his closet, let so many regular folks do with their job.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:47 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Stellar humour, even.
posted by clavdivs at 12:42 PM on February 9, 2015


Yeah, a joke. Stealing shit from work is such a universal that even St. Neil of Armstrong couldn't resist. The fact that he stole shit that was impeccably documented and catalogued and cost taxpayers billions to develop and that no one found out about until long after his death qualifies as awesomely rad.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:24 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wonder how he got the camera out.
posted by clavdivs at 3:35 PM on February 9, 2015


The fact that he stole shit that was impeccably documented and catalogued and cost taxpayers billions to develop..

And could not be re-used, so they were functionally useless.

I don't think people quite get that this was not considered stealing, it was all part of the deal for astronauts. There were official souvenirs like space flown first day covers which is a tradition going back to Project Mercury. Back then, a stash of signed first day covers (but not flown into space) were given to the families of astronauts, it was sort of an insurance policy. If the flight failed and the astronauts died, the signed covers would become fantastically valuable. There were even insurance covers for Apollo 11.

And then each astronaut was given a PPK bag to carry a limited weight of their own souvenirs, which they were free to sell. I think they had to make it official, or else the astronauts would have just hidden them onboard, adding unknown weight and other flight risks.

The concept of the Personal Preference Kit (PPK) was introduced by NASA to formalize the carrying of mementos by the astronauts on their missions. Before a flight the astronauts had to get the list of items they intended to take as souvenirs validated by NASA. The total allowed weight of the items was limited and the bulk restricted to what would fit in the small bag provided to contain them.

Most of the astronauts were in the military paid the same as other soldiers of their rank, which is not much considering the risks they were taking. So there was a culture of souvenir selling to make a few extra bucks, and NASA officially allowed it. Other artifacts were basically space junk and are only valuable now, many years later. And there were various controversies about souvenirs, from early Mercury flights, through to the later Apollo missions.

And then consider the ultimate lunar souvenir: the astronauts themselves. Neil and Buzz were grounded for life, they were considered too valuable to risk in another mission. They knew this was coming, and so did everyone else, and they had no idea how they would make a living after the return to Earth.

Souvenir collecting was obviously rampant, as long as you didn't get too greedy, like the Apollo 15 crew that spoiled it for everyone by getting Congress mad about personal enrichment from this Federal project. And nobody ever noticed that the Apollo 11 capsule in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum was missing a couple of utility lights, until now.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:46 PM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is just awesome. We've heard about Aldrin's turbulent life post-A11 but somehow Armstrong was always a Duddly Doright. Now he's human.

Except ... his loot ended up in a museum instead of being split up between millionaires' private collections. Guess he was a Dudley Doright after all.
posted by Autumn Leaf at 4:58 PM on February 9, 2015


charlie don't surf: "So there was a culture of souvenir selling to make a few extra bucks, and NASA officially allowed it."

Thank you very much for making this clear to everyone who's been assuming Armstrong was a thief.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 6:21 PM on February 9, 2015


It was thief-y though. This wasn't stuff he flew in his PPK and then sold or displayed. This was stuff he physically took from or off the craft and kept in his closet because for whatever reason he just wanted it. Yeah, it was useless, but I think NASA would strongly assert that the Apollo 11 capsule and its constituent parts did not belong to the astronauts, but to NASA. No one's arguing that it was morally wrong, but it almost certainly was technically against the rules.

Actually on re-read these were things that did come back in the purse from the LEM, so a bit of a grey area. Did he have permission? Did they account for the extra weight?

I'm an American and I prefer my heros to be maverick rule breakers.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:31 PM on February 9, 2015


No doubt several admins at NASA knew and signed off on Neil "taking some stuff off the lander that was just going to be trashed anyway". Dude had a lot of love and respect for being just sort of guy who got shit done without making a fuss.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:37 PM on February 9, 2015


This was stuff he physically took from or off the craft and kept in his closet because for whatever reason he just wanted it. Yeah, it was useless, but I think NASA would strongly assert that the Apollo 11 capsule and its constituent parts did not belong to the astronauts, but to NASA.

You know, it's not clear who owned what when. It looks to me like the spacecraft might technically be property of the subcontractors Grumman and Rockwell. They got involved with the souvenir game too.

It appears the only hard rule is that lunar material is property of the American People and cannot be legally owned by any individuals. Nobody cared much about the crap they used to get the moon rocks, as long as they had a nice spacecraft hull to put in a museum somewhere. And remember, nothing got off the spacecraft until after quarantine. They didn't take the PPKs with them, they were left behind in the ship and NASA handed the bags to the astronauts after they got out of the isolation facility. NASA knew what was in the bags.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:28 AM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know, it's not clear who owned what when. It looks to me like the spacecraft might technically be property of the subcontractors Grumman and Rockwell.

Oooh, obscure info about the Apollo program, let me in!

Pretty sure once any of the spacecraft arrived at NASA, they were officially owned by the agency at that point. NASA probably also owned the spacecraft while they were being built.

And remember, nothing got off the spacecraft until after quarantine.

Pretty sure a doctor and a escalating number of personnel were quarantined with the astronauts so that the command module can be safed, examined and Moon rocks unloaded at least. Plus there was a doctor and cook/cleaning assistant too.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:25 AM on February 10, 2015


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