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Computer Systems Fail Aboard the International Space Station


Officials at the U.S. space agency NASA says they are working to help restore computers that crashed in the Russian section of the International Space Station, threatening to lengthen the mission of the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis. VOA's Jessica Berman reports.

Three guidance, navigation and control computers, as well as a set of command and control computers, aboard the Russian segment of the International Space Station crashed Wednesday morning as astronauts began the process of retracting a pair of solar wings.

The computers also control the amount of oxygen, humidity and water processing aboard the orbiting laboratory.

ISS program manager Mike Suffradini says the computers are redundant, meaning that more than one of them performs the same task. And if one of the computers goes down, the system is programmed to try to reboot itself.

Suffradini says the computer system has gone down before but has always come back on line a short time later. Not so this time.

"I'm not thinking this is not something we will not recover from but, this being NASA, and the fact that we try to do everything we can to protect every option, we are looking at options to extend the time the shuttle guys stay with us just in case we'd like an extra day or so," he said.

If space officials are unable to get the computers up and working, Suffradini says they do not rule out removing the crew from the ISS. But he says that would be a last ditch move.

If they extend the mission to try to fix the computer problem, officials say it would be for 24 hours.

The 11-day mission has already been lengthened by two days to include repair of a protective heat blanket that came loose during launch of the space shuttle Atlantis.

NASA has decided to attempt to fix the 10-centimeter by 15-centimeter gap near the back of the shuttle on Friday.

A device that looks like a putty knife will be used to wedge the protective cloth back between the heat tiles, which will then be stapled shut.

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