So you think you know your keys?!?

A small challenge: do you have any idea what this key was used for?

10 points if you know what this key was used for ...

If you need help: here is a little hint

And the answer can be found here

* I am not 100% sure about the facts in the article, but we can discuss about that in the comments …

** Thanks to Nicholas Lennox for the link to this nice article

13 Responses to “So you think you know your keys?!?”

  1. Barry says:

    The keyholes on the first image of the dashboard are not round, and the key on the images obviously is round….

    Still it’s an interesting story 🙂

  2. MacGyver101 says:

    Interesting story!

    I’m not sure, though, that the first dashboard picture shows fully-exposed keyways. I may be entirely wrong, but the black/yellow markings look to be plastic indicators to help show the switch position. (There’s a slight shadow beside the left-most “arrow” which suggests that it’s slightly raised from the surface?)

  3. Bas2888 says:

    So here we have ‘literally’ a Sputnik key? 😉

  4. Fred says:

    According to Adam Savage (Yes, the guy from Mythbusters) it is a nuclear missile launch key:

    2:39 into his presentation at TED

  5. tballard says:

    “You can see how the metal around keyhole has moltened and blackened – they had to have very high voltages there – but what else would you expect during those glorious times they didn’t save on energy.”

    Not sure I buy this particular part of the article. I find it hard to believe there was high voltage in close proximity to a large, metal key which had to be turned by a highly trained (and non-disposable) human.

  6. Jean-Claude says:

    Jean-Claude says:

    It’s a Soyuz launch key.

  7. tballard, CRT monitors have 25kV high voltage inside and they gather black gunk all over the nearby wall and there is ~40 cm (a little over a foot) between the monitor and the wall.

    So the key can easily switch high voltage behind it, it just has proper insulation between the switch and the locking part.

  8. tballard says:

    Jaakko, I certainly could be wrong, but I think it is rare for both high voltage and amperage to be mechanically switched by something directly. Arcing, contact-welding, and shock hazards are usually mitigated by having a low voltage switch control a secondary system. But, then again, the USSR did had a knack for throwing caution to the wind and doing things on a scale outsiders considered insane.

  9. dosman says:

    The key for sale at has been sold, but there are more available here:

    They are souvenir keys but still a nice item and all are claimed to have been to the ISS.

    The question I have is, where is the launch key used? After examining all available photos of a Soyuz cockpit it can’t find the control panels listed in the English-Russia article. I have to assume it’s in a control room, not the Soyuz module which would make more sense I guess.

  10. dosman says:

    Ah, and the answer:

    T −5:00 – Launch key inserted in launch bunker

  11. Eric Michaud says:

    It looks like Adam may have been misinformed or not on his talk at TED.

    Watch the whole thing, but the Launch Key is at 2:35.

  12. jason says:

    the key in pitcher is a launch key from ussr or russia. saw on pawn stars. guy was selling two in box. very a locksmith who loves his work……….