In what could be called a three-hour space oddity, the International Space Station lost communication with NASA’s ground control in Houston on Tuesday while the station updated its software.
Its astronauts, two Americans, three Russians and a Canadian, were left sitting in a tin can far above the world, and there was nothing they could do. Luckily, the spaceship knew which way to go.
Thanks to its quick, 90-minute orbit around the Earth, the crew members were able to occasionally check in with engineers on the ground as they passed over Russia and got directions on how to fix the problem. The backup computer wasn’t properly configured to communicate with satellites in geosynchronous orbit, NASA officials said. By 9:34 a.m., the problem was fixed and communications were back online, NASA officials said.
Twitter posts from Canadian flight engineer Chris Hadfield outlined the day's up-and-down drama.
Leading into the upgrade, Hadfield tweeted from space, “Good Morning, Earth! Today we transition the Space Station's main computers to a new software load. Nothing could possibly go wrong.”