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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Nov 10, 2006 21:32:31 GMT -6
Year-End Computer Glitch Worries NASA
The worry is that shuttle computers aren't designed to make the change from the 365th day of the old year to the first day of the new year while in flight. NASA has never had a shuttle in space Dec. 31 or Jan. 1.
"We've just never had the computers up and going when we've transitioned from one year to another," said Discovery astronaut Joan Higginbotham. "We're not really sure how they're going to operate."
Starting Dec. 6, launch opportunities would be available as late as Dec. 17 or 18. With a 12-day mission, that would mean the shuttle is back on Earth before New Year's Eve.
However, NASA was quick to say that even if the shuttle crew finds itself still in space on Jan. 1, procedures could be devised to make a transition if necessary.
"Under some weird circumstance ... if we have an 'Oh my god,' and we have to be up there, I am sure we would figure out a way to operate the vehicle safely," said Steve Oswald, a vice president for Boeing Co., the parent company of the builders and designers of NASA's shuttles. "It just wouldn't be flying in the normal certified mode that we are used to flying."