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Space Bug NASA

ISS Computer Failure 289

A number of readers wrote us with news of the computer problems on the International Space Station. has one of the better writeups on the failure of Russian computers that control the ISS's attitude and some life-support systems. Two out of six computers in a redundant system cannot be rebooted. The space shuttle Atlantis may have its mission extended until the problem is fixed. A NASA spokesman was optimistic that the problem can be resolved; worst-case scenario would be for the shuttle to evacuate everyone onboard the ISS. Engineers are working on the theory (among others) that the failure may have been triggered by new solar panels installed earlier in Atlantis's mission.
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ISS Computer Failure

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  • by X0563511 ( 793323 ) * on Thursday June 14, 2007 @09:25AM (#19504205) Homepage Journal
    Really, does the fact that the computers are Russian matter? Broken software is broken software, and broken hardware is broken hardware.

    It's not like the Russians would send crappy stuff up to the ISS anyways, they would put all their best into it. And the Russians have a history of having some excellent mathematicians.
  • (un)cooperation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ceroklis ( 1083863 ) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @09:33AM (#19504313)

    Russian flight controllers plan to dedicate much of Thursday morning, when the ISS flies over Russian ground stations, to working through the computer issues.
    What does that mean ? That NASA doesn't relay communication to the russians so that they can start working on the problem right away ? Then they have more serious issues than a software error. The whole thing sounds like there is no real trust between the two agency. I understand that you want to give work to everybody and maybe keep some technology secret but it is absurd to have two mission controls, two life support systems, two attitude control systems, with apparently not much coordination.
  • by Bert64 ( 520050 ) < ... NBSDom minus bsd> on Thursday June 14, 2007 @09:39AM (#19504381) Homepage
    Lets not forget all the problems the american space shuttles have had recently, while the russian soyuz capsules have been working well for many years.
  • by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @09:40AM (#19504403)
    I've been waiting for this story to hit /. - didn't take long... I have to admit that using the ISS as an excuse to hide the real issue(s) and buy time is creative, tho :)

    When the shuttle launched last week, the headline quoting NASA was 'perfect launch'.

    Then, we heard this: "NASA says shuttle damage is not serious"

    Huh? I thought it was 'perfect'...?

    'NASA studies gap in shuttle's shields' - "not appearing to be an urgent problem" - "Other than that, the vehicle is very clean. NASA's Shannon said." s/070610/070610_tear_bcol_11a.standard.jpg [] - photo of hole/tear in thermal blanket

    "The first shuttle launch of the year helped put NASA back on track after a run of bad luck and scandal on the ground during the first half of the year."

    Next, we get this: "NASA checks into potential hit on shuttle"

    "Sensors on the shuttle Atlantis have recorded hits on the leading edges of the wings, around the area where Columbia suffered fatal damage four years ago, NASA officials said Tuesday. However, they emphasized that the hits probably did no damage to Atlantis."

    "What we have seen does not indicate that we have been hit by anything," NASA's Shannon said."

    Huh? Do we have a hit or not...? Shannon has quite the golden tongue.

    My point is that NASA always says "perfect launch", even when they are sitting on data that suggests damage or problems. And - here we go again.

    NASA does everything they can to shine up their process and actions to avoid even hints of trouble. They are more worried about bad press and how the public views their capabilities than they are for the short term. This story about a computer glitch on the ISS is a smokescreen to cover their asses while they try to fix whatever is wrong on the Shuttle. Hit or no hit, something is amiss.

    Sooner or later... Always ...the real information comes out and we find that something bad did indeed happen; they knew about it all along, and they were/are once again clueless as to how to deal with the situation, claiming the shuttle is sooooo complicated or sooooo old or soooo expensive, when all they really want to do is CYA.

    The mindset-climate at NASA has always been the same and always will be the same. Hubris.
  • Re:DFMEA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grommit ( 97148 ) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @09:42AM (#19504435)
    What part of "2 out of the 6 computers" did you not read? Also, that's 2 out of 6 of the Russian computers. The US side is still working fine.

  • by wicks0r ( 982807 ) <jmwicks AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday June 14, 2007 @09:49AM (#19504525)

    Two out of six computers in a reduntant system cannot be rebooted.
    From TFA:

    The station's Russian segment has a network of six primary computers, three for guidance and navigation and three for command and control, any one of which can handle the duties of its counterparts, Suffredini said, adding that only two were online early Wednesday.
    Big difference!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 14, 2007 @10:07AM (#19504777)

    Yeah, 'trillians' of $$$...

    Oh wait, no. Department budgets for 2007 []:

    • Department of Defence: ~$500 billion
    • National Aeronautics and Space Administration: ~$17 billion

    Sort your fucking country out. Just a thought.

  • Stopping rule (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lurker2288 ( 995635 ) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @10:09AM (#19504839)
    The question is what benefit we currently expect to derive from the station (as it will exist through the remainder of its troubled assembly and expected lifespan). If our estimate of that benefit, made today, is valued less than our current estimate of the cost of completetion, then completing the station is just throwing good money after bad. To say that we've already spent too much to stop now is just silly. Of course, with a situation like this, it's tough to argue that you could really accurately estimate either side of the equation, so speaking as an economist, it beats the hell out of me.
  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday June 14, 2007 @10:52AM (#19505469) Homepage Journal
    neither. They are completely different object for completely different tasks. Please don't compare them.
    The ISS has spent more time in continuous orbit and more time in space.

    So I guess that means...nothing really.
  • Re:Stopping rule (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 2short ( 466733 ) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @11:53AM (#19506465)
    "It could be converted from a pure research facility to more of a way station."

    If anybody had ever come up with any mission for which a "way station" served any purpose whatsoever.

    But they haven't.

    I actually have asked a few NASA engineers I know, and their (private) opinion is unanimous: drop the pointless money-suck into the ocean, ASAP.
  • The press is bad (Score:2, Insightful)

    by toddhisattva ( 127032 ) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @12:36PM (#19507163) Homepage

    When the shuttle launched last week, the headline quoting NASA was 'perfect launch'.

    They are more worried about bad press
    Of course they are. The press is bad. The press has idiots thinking that NASA is lying about the condition of the orbiter:

    This story about a computer glitch on the ISS is a smokescreen
    Of course it is. NASA hires fiction writers to come up with this stuff. They actually have more people writing fiction than they do writing code. And they tried to kill O.J. Simpson when the Capricorn One mission failed.

    The press is so bad you actually accused NASA of making up a story about computer trouble.

    The press is bad.

    It is damned unfortunate that people actually believe the press, when year after year story after story is revealed to be fiction from lede to -30-.

    That the hard work of thousands of smart people gets shat upon by fraudulent airheads.

    That it doesn't matter how great a job they do every tiny issue becomes a real threat to funding.

    Because the press is bad.
  • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Thursday June 14, 2007 @01:18PM (#19507819) Homepage

    It's not like the Russians would send crappy stuff up to the ISS anyways, they would put all their best into it.

    The truth is sadly quite the opposite. For example, they installed an unmodified Elektron oxygen generation system - despite the fact that it had a long and less than stellar record when installed on Mir.
  • by 2short ( 466733 ) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @11:13PM (#19514997)

    Meeting up with a reentry capsule in earth orbit is an excellent idea. The ISS doesn't do anything useful here though. You can just meet the capsule.

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright