Space Station Computers Partially Restored

Mission managers in Russia on Thursday have partially restored the computers that control the international space station's guidance and supply it with oxygen and water supplies, a day after the systems failed.

In Moscow, where the station's vital functions are managed, flight controllers were able to reestablish some communication with the computers overnight, and engineers were working Thursday to restore the rest of the system, NASA space station flight director Holly Ridings said.

Officials with NASA and the Russian space agency still don't know what caused all six of the units to crash. They believe it could be an electrical rather than software problem.

Mike Suffradini, NASA's program manager for the international space station, said under normal circumstances, the six computers are designed to automatically reboot if such a problem is detected.

A new solar array had been unfolded outside the station on Tuesday to help provide power for the orbiting outpost, and astronauts spent Wednesday hooking up a joint that will let the solar arrays track the sun. But the failure later Wednesday crippled the station's ability to aim at the sun to get solar power.

The crew got a scare early Thursday while the computers were being reconnected: a false fire alarm went off on the Zarya module — the first component launched for the international space station. But Ridings said there was no indication of any fire or smoke.

Space shuttle Atlantis is still docked at the space station, so the astronauts periodically fired its thrusters to help maintain the space station's position while the computers were down. NASA had said it might have to extend the shuttle's mission because of the problem; the mission already had been extended from 11 to 13 days to repair a thermal blanket that peeled up during launch.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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