HOUSTON, June 14 (UPI) -- NASA officials Thursday said the situation appeared to be improving on the International Space Station as crews worked to repair onboard computer systems.
Russian and NASA engineers were working into the evening Thursday to try to determine why three computer systems crashed, and the space agency began developing contingency plans that include abandoning the ISS if necessary, The Washington Post reported.
Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate director for space operations, said Thursday afternoon there was only an "extremely remote chance" the station might be evacuated because of the computer problems. He said engineers were unsure what caused the problems that started late Wednesday in Russian computers controlling the space station's secondary thrusters.
"I would say there's an extremely remote chance the problem would lead to abandoning the space station," said Gerstenmaier, noting the most critical issue is maintaining the station's attitude. But he said there's enough redundancy built into the station to allow alternate means of control.
However, Gerstenmaier said any long-term loss of attitude control might force the ISS crew into the docked space shuttle or Progress cargo ship because it would mean the station's solar panels couldn't remained aligned with the sun.
He declined to call the problem critical. "In my world this is (normal) space station operations," he said, noting the ISS is a complex operation and the problems might not be quickly resolved.
NASA issued contingency plans Thursday that could extend the shuttle's stay at the ISS to help maintain the space station's attitude.