back to article TERROR in SPACE: ISS 'Nauts end panic by switching computer off and on again

NASA has reopened sections of the International Space Station (ISS) sealed off after what has now been confirmed to be a false alarm over an ammonia leak. The US agency confirmed midday Wednesday, Pacific Time, that the crew had been cleared to reenter the American-built wing of the orbiting lab, and that no evidence of any …

  1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Can you believe it?

    Try turning it off and on again.

    1. Midnight

      Re: Can you believe it?

      Have you tried forcing an unexpected reboot?

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Can you believe it?

        If that doesn't work there's always the "Non-Maskable Interupt" to borrow a nice euphemism from the BOFH.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Can you believe it?

          Well, percussive maintenance usually helps too.

          1. ukgnome Silver badge

            Re: Can you believe it?

            But then you can't charge £85 for vehicle diagnostics

          2. Alien8n Silver badge

            Re: Can you believe it?

            "Well, percussive maintenance usually helps too."

            I believe that only works in the Russian sections of the space station...

    2. Sureo

      Re: Can you believe it?

      "switching computer off and on again"

      It's the first thing I try when something screws up. And it usually works too.

    3. Scott Broukell

      Re: Can you believe it?

      Do get with it peeps, it's now called 'power cycling' a system, you heard what the man said, enough with this off and on again malarkey.

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

        Re: Can you believe it?

        Here we say have you done an "Initial Power Load"

  2. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    Houston, we have a problem!

    "Well, before we go any farther, have you tried turning your modem off and on?"

  3. Chris G Silver badge


    No sanctions or visa problems crossing over to the Russian section for shelter?

    1. paulej72

      Re: So

      No that was only back in 2010.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: So

      They haven't been able to get enough concrete blocks up there yet to re-create Checkpoint Charlie.

  4. PNGuinn Silver badge

    I wonder what it was?

    It'd be interseting to know if they are prepared to speculate what flipped the relevant bit. I guess there's significant shielding, and I assume this sort of thing is quite rare.

    Or is the station toilet playing up again?

    Icon in case that's the root cause.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: I wonder what it was?

      Probably just one of those non reproducable flukes where an error message doesn't get cleared from the log because an error handler somewhere somehow didn't finish a routine properly after some fluke coincidence of factors.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: I wonder what it was?

        Oh.. just call it what it is... Murphy. Or use whatever is Russian for Murphy.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

          Re: I wonder what it was?


          1. Jonathan Richards 1

            Re: I wonder what it was?

            'Мурфи' maybe. I think that a Russian reading that might give it a more Dublinesque pronunciation than the name usually gets in England.

            1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

              Re: I wonder what it was?

              It's usually "zakon podlosti" aka "law of nastyness". But Murphy is also fine.

    2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      Re: I wonder what it was?

      Rare it may be, but there are a lot of high-speed sub-atomic particles zooming around outside the atmosphere. if one of those hits some other atoms where a bit is stored, you might get a change of value...

  5. Timbo

    This SO reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey...

    ...when HAL9000 "detected" a fault in the AR-35 module, requiring a space walk to fix it.....and leading to the death of Frank Poole :(

    Switching off the computer in 2001 did the trick - seems it worked on the ISS as well :)

    1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

      Re: This SO reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey...

      Hal, open the fridge door!

      Ammonia,cooling geddit? Nevermind

    2. Mike Flex

      Re: This SO reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey...

      "...when HAL9000 "detected" a fault in the AR-35 module,"


      Standards are slipping.

    3. Lallabalalla

      Re: This SO reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey...

      You *really* wouldn't want to switch that one back on though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This SO reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey...

        "You *really* wouldn't want to switch that one back on though."

        ...They did in the next movie (2010), although with the assistance of a specially trained engineer/phychologist (Dr Chandra). I wonder what the support callout fee was, all the way to Jupiter..??

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What did you expect?

    They use a Windoze O/S.

    1. glussier

      Re: What did you expect?

      No, they use Linux since 2013.

      1. NoSuitCIO

        Re: What did you expect?

        Linux with a bit of wine?

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: What did you expect?

      Laptops used by crew day to day are exclusively Linux since 2013

      I have no idea what US environmental control uses, but it is not likely to be Windows. VXworks on a radiation/space rated PPC is a more likely candidate.

      1. Simon Harris Silver badge

        Re: What did you expect?

        Maybe it was an MDM (Multiplexor/Demultiplexor module) fault - these control thermal regulation, among many other things. Originally designed by Honeywell...

        Honeywell brochure

        but at least some have been upgraded with newer Enhanced Processor and Integrated Communications (EPIC) cards (upgrade news).

        Does that make the problem an EPIC failure?

        1. Thunderbird 2

          Re: EPICS

          As opposed to an

          EPICS - Experimental Physics and Industrial Control System


      2. Gideon 1

        Re: What did you expect?

        There are several RTOSs on the ISS, including eCOS and QNX. RTEMS is also frequently used in space missions.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    article pretty much sums up my 20 odd year career in IT.

  8. Da Weezil

    "Have you changed your filter please sir? ok...... now I need you to log off please.... and change the details to startup_domain @bt,com... the password is password"

    Please to note that if we send an engineer to check your system there may be a charge of £149.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wrong Leak

    However the methane & Sulfur dioxide leak is real !!!! You can thank the ISS baked bean breakfast paste for that... "In space no one hears you fart"

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      In space no one hears you fart

      But they do see you move, what with equal and opposite reaction.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: In space no one hears you fart

        I can't possibly being the only one giggling like stupid right now at the thought of a space suit equipped with a tasteful little rocket nozzle in the appropriate position...

  10. AdamT


    You'd think the astronaut's own noses would be a fairly good judge of the presence of ammonia particularly at any level approaching dangerous. Or maybe the sensors are so incredibly sensitive it would be normal for them to detect levels that the human nose cannot.

    1. ravenviz Silver badge

      Re: Noses?

      A person exposed to harmful amounts of ammonia will notice it immediately because of the strong, unpleasant smell; strong taste; and likely irritation to the skin, eyes, nose and throat.

      Best avoided on the ISS I would have thought!

      New York Department of Health

  11. Anonymous Coward

    That's what they want you to believe

    So you were told to leave the room and not look for a while, then they said it's all right guys false alarm you can come back in now.

    Something smells for sure.

  12. Little Mouse

    Bladder control

    If it had been me up there the smell of ammonia would have spiked quite sharply immediately _after_ the alarm went off.

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: Bladder control

      You may want to see a doctor about that - urine that smells of ammonia may indicate a problem.

  13. davcefai

    From experience I have noticed that a very slow ammonia buildup may go unnoticed until it reaches an uncomfortable level.

    I remember arriving late at work and smelling ammonia. Nobody else in that section of the building had yet noticed it - it was a leak into a cold airstream which cooled a store. I ordered the building evacuated. As people left a phone rang from the engine room. "we think there might be an ammonia leak....."

  14. James Loughner


    Mus be running Windows.......

    hmmm that was too easy LOL

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