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International Space Station Computers Are Back On Line


A potential crisis was averted Friday when Russian space engineers managed to jump start critical computers aboard the International Space Station. Space officials say the situation could still alter plans for the return of the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis, which has been lending support to the space station while the computers were down. VOA's Jessica Berman reports.

The computers that control navigation and orientation of the space station, as well as maintain oxygen and water to crewmembers, crashed shortly after astronauts connected power from a truss that supports solar arrays to the space station module.

Technicians cut the main power from the truss in an effort to bring the computers back on line. When that did not work, they started looking for a secondary power source responsible for the computer crash.

ISS Mission Manager Mike Suffredini says the problem turned out to be a faulty circuit inside the computers, which Russian technicians were able to bypass. "They went to activate the four that they thought were still good, and all four of the computers came up," he said.

Suffredini says the other computers are still inactive, and he expects they will be sent home aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. But if everything looks good with the operating computers, Suffredini says they will begin slowly activating all of the systems on board the space station Saturday.

Space officials says the most important system maintains the space station's position, or attitude, in orbit.

Suffredini says mission controllers probably will not know for another day or two whether the computers can maintain attitude control.

If not, Atlantis will have to remain docked to the space station to keep it stable by firing its thruster rockets, something that would delay the shuttle's return.

Suffredini is cautiously relieved by the turn of events. He had said from the start of the crisis earlier in the week that no one intended to abandon the space station, even if the inhabitants had to be rescued because of the failed computers.

'When the crew said they were up and running, even before anything else was said, or any time passed, when two of them came up and stayed up together, I knew we had changed something for the better," said Suffredini. "And at that point, there's a little bit of relief, because you know some of the [contingencies] you're working on, hopefully you won't have to go try implement."

Also Friday, shuttle astronauts successfully repaired a torn thermal blanket during a space walk. The blanket is designed to protect the shuttle from the heat of re-entry when it returns to Earth next week.

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