Space station computer woes manageable, says NASA

As technicians from NASA and the Russian Space Agency work feverishly to fix two Russian computers that shut down Wednesday aboard the International Space Station, NASA's space station manager said he's confident the problems will be resolved.

In a news conference earlier Friday, Michael Suffredini said the problem, while vexing so far, "is a day in the life of the space station. We work on problems like this all the time."

With some 4 million lines of computer code and 60 to 70 separate computers aboard the space station and its various modules, problems will always crop up, caused by factors such as radiation and the temperature extremes of space, he said. "There's a lot of things that can affect your computers, and that's why we have redundancy. It's just the nature of the beast."

The two Russian computers, which control water and oxygen as well as spacecraft orientation failed Wednesday, but the crew is in no danger because there are backup computers and other systems onboard, according to NASA.

The latest theory is that the problem may have been caused by static electricity or electromagnetic interference following the installation of a new solar array used to collect sunlight that is converted into electricity to power the space station.

Technicians are still working to diagnose the computer problem, while the Russian space agency is already looking to send replacement parts into space in July if they are needed, NASA said.

"I'm still optimistic and think we have a pretty good chance to correct this," Suffredini said. "I think we're in good shape. We've still got a lot of options to work through" to recover the operation of the computers."

Alternatives include using parts from other portions of the space station to make repairs. For instance, Suffredini said, if the power supplies for the two onboard Russian computers are found to be burned out, there are others on the station that probably could be modified to work. "We're looking at a lot of options with our Russian colleagues," he said.

"I always expect to deal with lots of challenges," said Suffredini, who was named by NASA as manager of the International Space Station program in August 2005.

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