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ISS Computer Failure

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the little-help-from-my-friends dept.

Space 289

A number of readers wrote us with news of the computer problems on the International Space Station. Space.com 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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OS? (-1, Flamebait)

macaroo (847109) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504073)

Could these computers have MicroSoft's Windows as the OS? If so, I hope they brought up the installation disks!

Re:OS? (5, Funny)

Detritus (11846) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504125)

Maybe NASA didn't pay for Soyuz Ultimate Edition, with support for additional solar panels.

Re:OS? (0, Offtopic)

numbski (515011) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504557)

Okay funny guy. :P

That actually brought to mind something really interesting...

We have all of these really cool features in open source software. I do mean REALLY cool too. I run my entire business on FreeBSD servers (no flame wars, just a personal preference!), and amonst all of the really cool things that Linux and FreeBSD can do, I've often wondered something. Why do we have to pull a full reboot for a new kernel?

Don't answer me directly. I know the answer. I know what a kernel is and what it does. Mostly. :) The reason I bring it up is the hack required for the tivo required a port of monte [sourceforge.net]. Is there any reason that this couldn't become a standard feature? ie, compile the latest kernel fixes, monte in the new kernel, do a service by service restart? I know it's pedantic, but it's then possible to have perpetual uptime, is it not? I"m presuming that the old kernel gets flushed from memory, and since you do a rolling service restart, no one service goes completely down.

I'm making an awful lot of presumptions, and I guess the thought is that if you're going to go to the trouble of doing a rolling service restart, you might as well just cut the power and be done with it...but still. It'd be nice if there's a security fix in the kernel that wouldn't break compatibility with existing running applications to just let you compile, monte to the new kernel, flush the old kernel, and life goes on. Is there a technical limitation that I'm not seeing? Understand I have some FreeBSD-isms going on here with the monolithic kernel vs. kernel+modules. I've run into a nightmare a few times before on a debian box where I've compile a new kernel but forgot to recompile all of the modules, and stuff dies.

Re:OS? (4, Interesting)

T.E.D. (34228) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504585)

Could these computers have MicroSoft's Windows as the OS?


On NASA's manned space equipment you will find no software that is not controlled by NASA. These folks don't just run a few tests. They spend thousands of dollars per SLOC in testing. They actually mathematically prove their software's correctness. Perhaps the Russian agency's quality isn't quite as high, but I still doubt their (or anyone else's) systems onboard the ISS have any OS at all. Most likely they are all custom embedded systems.

I'd council against jumping to conclusions about the cause of this solely based on the Russian origin of these systems. I remember a lot of people did that with the early Ariane crash [embedded.com] based on it being written in Ada, and ended up looking pretty silly when the problem turned out to be some ported code that wasn't rewritten properly for the new platform.

You need the russian guy from armageddon (5, Funny)

daninaustin (985354) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504093)

They need the russian guy from armageddon to bang on the side of the computers!

Re:You need the russian guy from armageddon (5, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504963)

My favorite line from that: "Russian components, American components. They're all made in Taiwan."

Incompatible hardware or... (0, Troll)

Enigma23 (460910) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504097)

...the result of an ill-advised Windows Vista installation or two instead? ;p

Re:Incompatible hardware or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19504953)

Too bad they've already got a few of the systems back up.

Slashdot is so 90's... Slow.

Re:Incompatible hardware or... (1)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 6 years ago | (#19505153)

the result of an ill-advised Windows Vista installation or two instead?
Maybe they should've paid for valid licenses. Will the Russians ever learn?

Patch Tuesday (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19504113)

I know all of my Windows computers were anxious to reboot yesterday.

I have to be misreading that (5, Funny)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504135)

"...control the ISS's attitude..."
So the ISS is throwing a temper tantrum? Just put it in time out

Re:I have to be misreading that (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19504237)

I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.

definition of attitude (4, Informative)

oni (41625) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504543)

I know you're joking but I'm a sucker so here goes: attitude means, "which direction is it pointed" They use big gyroscopes to keep the station oriented so that the solar panels can track the sun.

Maybe the new solar panels are a new input to the attitude program - "I am a new solar panel, I need to be pointed this way so that my 1 axis motor can track the sun"

Re:I have to be misreading that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19504957)

Don't make me stop this space station!

That's the problem right there (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19504143)

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

NASA should have invested in a redundant system, rather than buying a cheap grey-market knockoff.

2007: A Space Odyssey. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19504531)

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

It's true.

The six computers are 6 Russian HAL 9000 [wikipedia.org].

The astronauts have to kill the 6 invincible Russian HAL 9000 [wikipedia.org].

You have to unscrew the HAL 9000 [wikipedia.org]'s brain: photo [wikipedia.org].

Re:2007: A Space Odyssey. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19505071)

The solar panels are too heavy and warm up the ISS global climate.

It's like an increment of 0.5 degrees Kelvin.

I can sympathize. (5, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504145)

Like many Slashdotters, when the computers at my job fail, my attitude tends to become uncontrollable as well.

SpellCheck Down (0, Troll)

bedonnant (958404) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504155)

Engineers are working on the theory (amongh others)...
Unfortunately the ISS computer failures also had direct impact on spellcheckers on Earth.

DFMEA (4, Interesting)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504167)

Hopefully they're starting with their DFMEA documentation... "guessing" at the problem and having "theories" is probably not a good way to go. Also, it's apparently a common-mode failure, which you shouldn't have in a safety-critical system; generally this is avoided by having different computer hardware and/or completely different code to do the same tasks.

Quite unfortunate that it seems like systems engineering is lacking in more and more disciplines recently, although I suppose it makes good systems engineers more valuable.

My list for this would be something like: "Computer doesn't boot." Possible reasons: "No Power", "Insufficient power", "Corrupt memory", "Broken circuits", etc. Then you go down that tree further and find the root cause. The most disturbing thing is that they had such a major common-mode failure...whatever happened to the "no single points of failure" mantra?

* sigh *

Re:DFMEA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19504295)

5 computers failing simultaneously is common?

Re:DFMEA (2, Insightful)

grommit (97148) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:DFMEA (4, Interesting)

Sanat (702) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504493)

I have seen ground faults cause these types of problems. maybe the new solar panels has a leakage path back to the mechanical structure creating a voltage distribution problem after being interfaced with the ISS mechanically and electrically.

These problems are not easy to diagnose when you have hands on capability leave alone 200 miles above Earth.

I do hope that it is sorted out swiftly and the ISS and its occupants remain safe.

Re:DFMEA (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504775)

Actually, it very likely is to do with the new panels.

: the Russian segment of the station uses 28 volts dc (like the Shuttle). In the rest of the station, electricity is provided by the solar panels attached to the truss at a voltage ranging from 130 to 180 volts dc

If something has leaked into the russian side then these machines could be totally dead.

from ISS on wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

Re:DFMEA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19504813)

iss Screen Capture [microsoft.com]

BOOT: Couldn't find NTLDR


Error Occurred(0)


Re:DFMEA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19504887)

Well no wonder the ISS has an attitude problem. They loaded HAL.dll.

Re:DFMEA (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504971)

How do you ground something in space?

Re: How do you ground something in space? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19505187)

In this case one must think of "ground" as being a reference level of zero volts.

From Wikipedia:

Circuit ground versus earth

In an electrical circuit operating at signal voltages (usually less than 50 V or so), a common return path that is the zero voltage reference level for the equipment or system.

Voltage is a differential quantity, which appears between two points having some electrical potentials. In order to deal only with a voltage (an electrical potential) of a single point, the second point has to be connected to a reference point (ground) having usually zero voltage.

This signal ground may or may not actually be connected to a power ground. A system where the system ground is not actually connected to earth is often referred to as a floating ground.

Should've used a pencil (-1, Troll)

dctoastman (995251) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504169)

Now they look no better than stupid Americans.

Re:Should've used a pencil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19504627)

>Should've used a pencil.
>Now they look no better than stupid Americans.

Wouldn't it be ironic if pencil shavings were the cause of the problems?

Computer Failure... (1)

racecarj (703239) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504175)

Yeah, I can see it now:

"Turn the gyroscopes ISS."

"I'm sorry comrade, but I'm afraid I can't do that."

Re:Computer Failure... (4, Funny)

Bucc5062 (856482) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504859)

"I'm sorry comrade, but I'm afraid I can't do that."

Not quite...

"I'm sorry comrade, In space, gyroscopes, turn you"

sigh, life is balanced again.

System Wide Reboot? (3, Funny)

JonathanR (852748) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504187)

While the computers have experienced hiccups in the past, a system-wide reboot typically solved the problem, mission managers said.
OMG, let's just power cycle the ISS, shall we? Should fix the problem...

Re:System Wide Reboot? (2, Interesting)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504359)

Sort of related.. The trains on my line in the UK are run using some sort of Java based system (we know because they were very buggy to begin with and the website used to give surprisingly honest updates on progress). ANyway, now and then it still goes a bit loopy and we have to sit in the station while the drive warns us over the Tannoy 'I'm just rebooting the train, back in a few minutes' and sure enough, the power drops, lights go out, fans stop then whoosh, it's on again, the displays start scrolling logos and welcome messages and one by one you can hear the subsystems power up. Quite cool, if your sad like me.

Re:System Wide Reboot? (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504473)

Sounds like you are either in the Southern area or have similar trains to us - the trains where the GPS systems refused to let the doors open if they considered that the train wasn't actually at a station, even though the 'mere human' driving it had lined us up neatly at the platform edge and come to a perfect halt.

Hey, here is a crazy idea (3, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504195)

How about we evacuate the ISS and stop pumping money into that worthless money sink?

No, no--I know is sounds crazy. But hear me out. Maybe we could actually pursue something NEW--you know, dare to violate that 30-year-old sacrosanct NASA policy of just repeating themselves over and over again and wasting trillions of $ on contractors and grandiose promises which never amount to squat.

Just a thought.

Re:Hey, here is a crazy idea (5, Interesting)

bronzey214 (997574) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504251)

At this point, as a US taxpayer, I'd much rather see the ISS finished rather than just leaving it up there as a pile of space junk.

It's kinda like finding out your house you're current building will cost twice as much as normal.

Do you just leave it half finished and abandon it or do you keep pumping money into it?

Re:Hey, here is a crazy idea (4, Informative)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504391)

The investment in time, money, and energy has already been made. To abandon it now, no matter how dysfunctional it is, would be a bigger waste. If the initiatives to return to the Moon and move on to Mars are going to go forward (and given Congress' past performance in this regard, I highly doubt it), then ISS is a necessary platform to span the gap between the Earth and the Moon. MInd you, when the United States was first thinking of going to the Moon, Werner von Braun put forward the plan to build a space station first, then use it as the assembly point for the journey to the Moon. Then, the platform would already have been established, and the Space Shuttle would have been the next natural extension after the end of Apollo. But the idea was shelved in order to get to the Moon by 1970, and as a result we have the current situation. So, we have done it backwards, but to abandon it now would be truly a giant step in reverse.

Re:Hey, here is a crazy idea (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504769)

The ISS wasn't built to be a launch platform for the moon or Mars. It was built as an overpriced space laboratory. Are you seriously telling me that tiny, fragile low-orbit tin-can is supposed to function as some sort of launch platform for a moon mission, much less a Mars mission? That's laughable.

And even if it could, what is the point? We've got to get the payload up there either way--and why not go with the PROVEN, much simpler technology that got us there THE FIRST TIME? There is no need to send up a large number of spacecraft and go to the hassle of assembling the craft up there when we could much more easily assemble it on the ground and launch it in one launch on top of a revised Saturn V-type rocket.

That whole "it will function as a intermediary between the Earth and the moon/Mars" crap is just more NASA PR. Just another excuse to try and justify their continued pointless support of the ISS.

Stopping rule (2, Insightful)

Lurker2288 (995635) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Hey, here is a crazy idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19504609)

But.. we have wasted more money on this "War on Terror" than on the ISS.

Re:Hey, here is a crazy idea (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19504777)

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

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

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

Sort your fucking country out. Just a thought.

Re:Hey, here is a crazy idea (-1, Redundant)

mikelieman (35628) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504933)

For less than the cost of the Iraq War SO FAR, we could have had the constellation of orbital solar power satellites beaming down electricity to fill the batteries of our hybrid cars with ZERO EMISSIONS.

*AND* the lifting infrastructure to install and support them ( meanwhile providing access to orbit for about the cost of FedEx Custom Critical.)

We *have* the electric grid, we just need to plug in Ground Stations.

And we could tell the Oil Vendors to hold onto their stocks, b/c we'll still need to buy it, but only enough to make Tupperware, going forward.

Re:Hey, here is a crazy idea (1)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 6 years ago | (#19505221)

I see where you're coming from. I'm not against the ISS, but one thing that strikes me odd is "What science has been done on it?" We pump so much money, yet I have yet to hear of a single thing that has come about because of it, every time it's in the news it's about adding a new module or something bad.

On the other hand the Hubble cost A LOT less, and even though Nasa was/has(?) abandoned it, it' still provids a lot of valuable information. Even with some components broken, the Hubble has really kicked ass.

How bad a worst case? (2, Interesting)

devnullkac (223246) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504197)

The stated worst case scenario is that the ISS will need to be evacuated, but if the remaining gyros are being overwhelmed, might the station enter an unrecoverable spin state before the problem is resolved?

Re:How bad a worst case? (2, Informative)

Enigma23 (460910) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504289)

If they need to evacuate, there are sufficient Soyuz escape modules (tried and tested as the standard re-entry module used by Cosmonauts for the last 40+ years with an almost unchanged design) for all of the current crew capacity on the ISS. Well, I hope so for there sake, or we might have a spaceborn version of what happened to the unfortunate inhabitants of the S.S. Titanic, where passengers vastly outnumbered available spaces on the lifeboats of the supposedly unsinkable ship.

Re:How bad a worst case? (4, Interesting)

richdun (672214) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504819)

Evacuating ISS would be a very bad thing to have happen. The crew would be fine, as this luckily happened with a shuttle in dock, which can act an emergency lifeboat for the whole crew (plus the Soyuz that's up there with them, if things got too crowded on Atlantis). The biggest problem would be for the hardware - without people up there to keep maintenance tasks going, the station would need to be completely shutdown save for a few critical systems (attitude control, the NH4 cooling systems, power, etc.). In this case, some of those few critical systems are what seem to be giving the trouble.

Evacuating ISS is always a last resort, because should something happen to it while unoccupied, it'd be a total loss. We won't have another shuttle ready for a month or so, and I believe the Russians just recently did a Soyuz exchange, so there'd be no quick return, even if the problems were fixed. With attitude control in question, it could become too unstable for even a shuttle or Soyuz docking to occur.

Does the ethnicity matter? (4, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504205)

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.

Re:Does the ethnicity matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19504269)

It matters because there are two separate sets of computers aboard the ISS; the Russian computers (on the Russian segment) and the U.S. computers (on the U.S. segment). You have to specify which set failed.

Re:Does the ethnicity matter? (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504319)

What do mathematicians have to do with this? It's an engineering problem.

Re:Does the ethnicity matter? (2, Informative)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504373)

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.

This [amazon.com] is an interesting read on this subject. The answer to your question is that the fact that the computers are Russian probably does matter.

It's not that the Russian mathematicians aren't excellent, it has more to do with their engineering approach.

That, and of course politics on both sides...

Re:Does the ethnicity matter? (2, Funny)

mnmn (145599) | more than 6 years ago | (#19505057)

My thoughts exactly!

After all Redmond is in USA.


Oh, come on.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19505179)

The Russians make great rockets. But computers? We've got Intel, AMD, Apple, Dell, HP, etc etc. Japan has Toshiba, Sony, etc. Who does Russia have? Tell you what, off the top of your head, name one major Russian computer company, then you can complain about how terrible this ethnic bias is. Personally I'm fairly amazed that we thought Russia was the place to get our computers.

The ISS's attitude (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19504211)

> failure of Russian computers that control the ISS's attitude

Now the station is all belligerent.

Chauvinistic gloating (1)

scsirob (246572) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504219)

For reports on the INTERNATIONAL Space Station I find it really disturbing how much emphasis is placed on the failure of 'Russian' computers, and the ability of 'U.S.' equipment to save the day. It would show a lot more gut to report in a country neutral manner about the issue at hand.

I wish all people up there (Astronauts and cosmonauts alike) the very best in fixing this problem.

Re:Chauvinistic gloating (1)

bronzey214 (997574) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504283)

Well it is NASA's website, there's bound to be some bias.

If you went to the Russian's space website, it probably says something like "Russian software fails after Americans install new solar panels, thought new ploy to embarrass Russian pride" or something of the like.

Re:Chauvinistic gloating (2, Insightful)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504381)

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.

Re:Chauvinistic gloating (1)

CheeseTroll (696413) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504455)

I don't disagree with you - the blatant nationalism gets kinda old -
though a little engineering/science competitiveness certainly beats lobbing missiles at each other, right?

I suspect the current mood also has something to do with the months of reading about the 'failure' of American space shuttles, and the saving grace of Russian resupply missions. Next year it'll be something about the failure of the German-built communications systems, and thank God for the British-built semaphore flags.

(un)cooperation (2, Insightful)

ceroklis (1083863) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:(un)cooperation (1)

badfish99 (826052) | more than 6 years ago | (#19505219)

If I were ever in a space station and a life support system failed, I would be very glad indeed if there were two life support systems and no coordination between them.

Organizing your priorities... (5, Funny)

bronzey214 (997574) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504325)

From TFA:

"The lights, the fans and, thank God, the potty, all those things are working," Suffredini said.

Well at least he has his priorities in order. God knows you don't want anyone looking into the Hubble to see the ISS going by with your ass hanging out of the window.

Wrong power output (0)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504339)

Isn't it obvious? Russian computers use 220 plugs, the Solar Panels are 110 output! Darn incompatible power systems! :)

Re:Wrong power output (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504571)

Doncha know that US solar panels provide 60Hz DC and the Russians take 50Hz DC..or is it 440Hz.

I blame Radio Shack.

Absolut Terror (3, Funny)

RealErmine (621439) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504377)

From the article: The computer failures have left the station without the use of its Russian attitude control

I guess the liquor cabinet door in the ISS is computer controlled.

NASA has a problem alright, but not with the ISS (4, Insightful)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#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." http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/j/msnbc/Components/Photo s/070610/070610_tear_bcol_11a.standard.jpg [msn.com] - 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.

Just for the record (4, Interesting)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504901)

For all those chucksters cracking wise about what a bucket of bolts the ISS is...

The first piece of the space station was Zarya, the Russian control module that was launched into orbit November 20, 1998. A few weeks later, on December 4, 1998, the U.S. module Unity was launched into space. On December 7, 1998, the two modules were connected.

That makes the ISS just over 8 years in service.

How old is Atlantis?
  • Fourth orbiter to become operational
  • 01/29/79 Contract Awarded
  • 03/03/80 Started structural assembly of Crew Module
  • 04/10/84 Completed Final Assembly
  • 10/03/85 First Flight

Space Shuttle Atlantis has completed 27 flights, spent 220.40-days in space, completed 3468 orbits, and flown 89908732 miles in total, as of September 2006. Atlantis visited visited MIR in 1997!

Atlantis is 23 years old as of last April. 21 years in service. More than twice as old as the ISS.

Now, tell again - which is the real bucket of bolts? ISS or Atlantis?

Re:NASA has a problem alright, but not with the IS (1)

timster (32400) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504967)

This is an incredibly silly line of reasoning.

First of all, every shuttle mission since Columbia has had a bunch of little problems reported by NASA. Remember when they did a spacewalk to pull out gap fillers? Remember freeze-frames showing foam impacts?

So your first "point", that NASA always claims a perfect launch, is simply false. But besides that, the ISS problem is WAY more serious than your supposed shuttle wing impact conspiracy. If the ISS is abandoned due to this, and they can't fix this problem from the ground, they'll never be able to dock with it again -- throwing the last decade of the manned space program out the window (except for the Hubble, of course).

Correction: 4 out of 6 computers down (2, Insightful)

wicks0r (982807) | more than 6 years ago | (#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!

I've been waiting for it (1)

Coraon (1080675) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504629)

where was the "in soviet russia" joke? I mean I would have thought something like "thanks to the soviet era mind control beams space station controls you" kinda thing...

Why the stress on RUSSIAN computers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19504789)

This whole piece reads like a bigoted attempt to blame the failure of some electronics on the nationality of the installer????

AFAICT from the FA, everything was OK until the new Solar Panel was fixed on. I wonder who made that? Any engineer would guess the problems might lie:

1) with the solar panel and it's wiring
2) with the people who attached the panel to the ISS
3) with the power regulation system on board the ISS
4) with the computers

but to read the article you would think that the Russians are actively sabotaging everything and only the heroic American reserve equipment is saving the day.

Is there any way of keeping this the INTERNATIONAL space station, or do the US have to have the lion's share of everything?


Re:Why the stress on RUSSIAN computers... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#19505245)

We'll stop claiming to be heroic when we get to stop paying for the whole damned thing.

did they do an upgrade recently .. (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504921)

ISS getting ready for a new computer system

Filed under: Desktops

The International Space Station crew is doing some spring cleaning this week to get ready for an upcoming computer upgrade. Related and unrelated novelties include 10 times faster networking and a brand new window and camera combo which was installed last week ..

http://www.engadget.com/2007/03/19/iss-getting-rea dy-for-a-new-computer-system/ [engadget.com]

http://www.spacescan.org/entry/international-space -station-may-soon-get-computer-upgradations/ [spacescan.org]

Graphite failure (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504969)

It's probably graphite shavings from all those pencils the Russians use in space. They should use the billion-dollar space pen we developed! Go USA! (I think they really all use a china marker-type writing utensil anyhow)

NASA uses 30-year old UNIX derivative (2, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | more than 6 years ago | (#19504989)

Many of NASA computers on spacecraft use a long-tested version of realtime UNIX called VxWorks from Charles River. It doesnt nexcessarily have the fancy stuff in modern *nix's, but is fairly reliable. Even that has been known to fail. The flash memory driver in the Martian Rovers had a bad free-list routine which shut them down for several weeks near the beginning of their mission after the flash memory filled up. A fix was uploaded. Flash memory was relatively new and hadnt been tested as much as the rest of the system.

MS strike again (1)

Pvt_Ryan (1102363) | more than 6 years ago | (#19505121)

well we all know those russians were using bootlegged copies of windows vista.. :P Those 2 machines probably didn't have the activation crack installed correctly and failed the Genuine windows validation test.

Listen to Scotty (1)

slazar (527381) | more than 6 years ago | (#19505253)

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.
You'd better listen to Scotty when he says, "I canna give her any more power cap'n."
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