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NASA temporarily loses communication with space station

February 19, 2013|By Joseph Serna
  • Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko, left, and Anton Shkaplerov, both Expedition 30 flight engineers, participate in a session of extravehicular activity to continue outfitting the International Space Station.
Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko, left, and Anton Shkaplerov, both Expedition… (NASA )

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.”

Then, as the process began, Hadfield wrote, "As I transition the Space Station computers, I notice our Houston CAPCOM's name is ... Hal ! The irony, as life imitates art."

And after Hal stopped misbehaving, Hadfield concluded, "The computers gave us problems today,comms going in and out, but our superb Mission Control team has it all fixed, back, with an upgrade."

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