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Space station computers at 100%

June 17, 2007|Reuters

HOUSTON — Balky computers on the International Space Station were fully revived Saturday, but crew members admitted the problem had worried them and served as a reminder that spaceflight is dangerous.

Station commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineer Oleg Kotov rewired the bank of computers to bypass a power outlet that NASA and Russian space officials believe may have caused the computers to crash Monday.

The computers, which are German-made and use Russian software, are crucial because they keep the station properly positioned for solar power generation and communications.

"In the very beginning, we were a little bit worried about the status of the computers because, you know, this was the first time the whole set of Russian computers crashed at once," Kotov said in a news conference from space.

The computers will be tested to make sure they are working well enough for the space shuttle Atlantis to leave the station.

It docked with the orbital outpost June 10 and has been keeping it stable during the computer crash, but is scheduled to depart Tuesday. It can stay another day if needed.

U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams, who is to return to Earth on Atlantis after more than six months on the station, said the computer problems showed that safety in space was not a given.

Problems with the computer system started as astronauts installed a new piece of the station's exterior spine, a beam that holds a pair of solar wing panels and a rotary joint so the wings can track the sun for power.

So far, the best explanation for the crash is a subtle change in the space environment as the station has grown, said NASA's space station program manager Michael T. Suffredini.

The station flies above Earth through streams of charged particles, which build up a static voltage charge on the outside.

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