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The International Space Station. Credit: NASA The International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Space station works offline

Sen— The International Space Station (ISS) lost communications temporarily with NASA's mission control during a software upgrade on February 19.

Normal communications were restored a few hours later and there were no other problems whilst the station was offline to mission control in Houston.

Expedition 34 crew member Chris Hadfield had started his day by announcing to his 400,000+ Twitter followers "Good Morning, Earth! Today we transition the Space Station's main computers to a new software load. Nothing could possibly go wrong." However, at 14.45 GMT (9.45 EST) communications between NASA's mission control and the space station failed during the software upgrade.

Whilst engineers at NASA's mission control in Houston worked on re-establishing the link, station commander Kevin Ford was able to pick up a signal and send an audio message to NASA whilst the station passed over Russian ground stations. Commander Ford reported that "all systems otherwise look like they are doing just fine". 

A NASA statement explained "Flight controllers were in the process of updating the station’s command and control software and were transitioning from the primary computer to the backup computer to complete the software load when the loss of communication occurred".

Just under 3 hours later at 5.34 GMT (12.34 EST) communications with ground control in Houston were re-established. 

Currently aboard the ISS are NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, who commands the station, NASA flight engineer Tom Marshburn, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and Russian cosmonauts Roman Romanenko, Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin.

Aside from the communications failure the crew aboard the station carried on with their work and experiments. Tom Marshburn, who is a qualified Doctor, took a sample of his blood as part of an on-going health assessment during his time aboard the orbiting outpost. Chris Hadfield meanwhile, as well as taking more beautiful pictures of Earth, scrubbed the cooling loops on US spacesuits and spacewalk equipment to ensure they are ready for use at a later date. Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin conducted medical examinations of the veins in their lower legs as part of a health study.

Kevin Ford, Tom Marshburn and Chris Hadfield are taking part in a NASA social media event on Wednesday 20 February.

On February 11 an unmanned Progress supply ship arrived at the space station delivering several tonnes of supplies. Further supplies are due to arrive aboard SpaceX's Dragon in early March.

In mid March Kevin Ford, Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin, who arrived at the ISS on October 25, will return to Earth, marking the end of Expedition 34. Chris Hadfield will assume command of Expedition 35. Commander Hadfield, Tom Marshburn and Roman Romanenko will be joined by Chris Cassidy, Alexander Misurkin and Pavel Vinogradov.

The ISS's first crew arrived on November 2, 2000 and in total 204 astronauts have now visited the station which has been orbiting Earth for over 5,205 days.

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