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ISS: four of six computers fixed

Two Russian cosmonauts, Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov, have been able to start four of the six computers that crashed at the International Space Station and curbed its ability to produce oxygen. The news comes after days of effort to get the crucial co

Also, astronauts James Reilly and John Olivas have finished repairing the thermal blanket that peeled back during the launch of space shuttle Atlantis. After that, they began working on the upper half of the station where they fixed the station's solar panels and repaired the oxygen regeneration system. Both astronauts spent more than six hours repairing the station.

Space specialists at the Mission Control Centre in the city of Korolyov in Moscow’s region and Russian cosmonauts have been working throughout the night to try and get these vital computers up and running.

In the worst case scenario, the space station's three crew members might have to return to Earth earlier if those computers are not functioning properly or fail. However, both Russian and U.S. specialists are being positive.

“There is nobody in this agency, and as far as I know in the Russian agency, that thinks this vehicle is at risk of being lost. Not even remotely. And that includes even if we have to ever leave.  We've discussed several options for departing the space station and leaving it unmanned for a period of time and coming back to it.  It can be commanded from the ground,” Mike Suffredini, NASA Station Programme Manager, says.

“Our specialists think that the ISS can be controlled without the working computer network on the Russian segment but with the help of the American segment. But we need to work everything out with our NASA colleagues,” Nikolay Sevastyanov, the President and Designer General of the S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation “Energia”, explains.

Russian space officials are still in the dark about what could have gone wrong and what caused the computers on the ISS Russian segment go down.

Specialists say they had never seen the type of failure on the space station before.

Sergey Krikalyov, a former cosmonaut, says, “It was tested for many things. We don’t know what caused it. If it was a spike in power we need to understand what it was”.  He adds, “I think static electricity is the primary scenario. But we need to do analysis in order to be sure”.
What could have been the spike, affected two power supplies that run computers controlling the space stations orientation and oxygen and water supplies.

James Oberg, a space historian, and an expert on the Russian Space Programme, says there have been similar incidents on the Space Station before

“There have been similar cases on the space station itself. Of course the famous case during Apollo programme such as Apollo-13, or the repair Skylab. And the Soviet space programme had many very glorious repairs of major problems at Soyuz space stations that the public was not told about because of the propaganda needs. The public didn’t realise how hard the cosmonauts and the Russian control centre had to work to pull it off. And they did marvelous things in space. This is in their tradition,” he claims.    

The space shuttle Atlantis is still docked at the Station. It currently takes care of the directional control of the ISS. NASA says it might have to extend the shuttle's mission because of the problem. The mission has already been extended from 11 to 13 days to repair the thermal blanket that peeled up during launch.

Without the Russian oxygen-machine running, the space station has a 90 day supply of oxygen left.