It’s something no one hovering hundreds of kilometers over the Earth ever really wants to experience. Yes, when you floating in a tin can, you’re only connection to the surface being a communications relay, it can be pretty scary when it suddenly stops working. Can’t be much of a picnic for those working Mission Control either, or the families forced to sit idly by and wait for others to figure out what went wrong.
The communications blackout began on Tues, Feb. 19th at 9:45 am EST(15:45 UTC) , and lasted until 11:34 am yesterday (17:34 UTC). So for a good twenty-six hours straight, the ISS was unable to communicate with ground crews, which as anyone can guess caused a bit of a stir. Luckily, it turns out everyone on board the ISS was just fine the whole time, no injuries or space invaders to speak of!
According to a statement filed by NASA, communications were apparently lost when flight controllers in Houston were updating the software onboard the station’s flight computers and one of the station’s data relay systems malfunctioned. The primary computer that controls critical station functions defaulted to a backup computer, but was not allowing the station to communicate with NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellites.
Then, just before 11:00 a.m. EST, flight controllers were able to communicate with the crew once more as the space station flew over Russian ground stations. They then instructed the crew to connect a backup computer to begin the process of restoring communications. Once that was done, Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford reported the following:
“Hey, just FYI, the station is still flying straight, everybody is in good shape, or course, and nothing unexpected except lots of caution and warning [alarms]. All the systems look like they are doing just fine.”
According to the Johnson Space Center’s latest Twitter update, the crew is back at work and the crew is taking questions from fans. Click here to see what the crew had to say about the temporary communications blackout and what’s in store for them now.
In an ironic twist, sources have since indicated that Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield Tweeted the following from the ISS shortly before the blackout took place: “Good Morning, Earth! Today we transition the Space Station’s main computers to a new software load. Nothing could possibly go wrong.” The moral here? Things can always go wrong! And don’t tempt fate, especially when you’re hurling through space, hundreds of kilometers above the Earth.