The International Space Station has been in orbit for almost 20 years, and it's finally starting to show its age.
The ISS has suffered a minor power failure that cannot be repaired until next year. One of the eight channels used to power the station has gone down, though the other seven are still functioning. According to the Associated Press, the problem was caused by a short circuit in equipment on the station's framework. The short reportedly tripped a current-switching device, resulting in the loss of one of eight channels used to power the orbiting lab. All affected systems were switched to alternate lines.
Despite the problems, NASA reports the crew has been operating normally and is in no danger. Sadly, the six astronauts stationed on the ISS cannot currently effect repairs, because the equipment required to fix the power conduit is not currently on board. It’s hard to run to Lowe’s for spare parts when you’re 249 miles above the Earth. A similar failure occurred 2014 and required a spacewalk to complete repairs.
NASA hopes to send the required spare parts via a SpaceX resupply mission in early 2016.
It's great news that this malfunction hasn't caused any major problems, and shows the critical advantage of having redundancy in any spacefaring effort. But, if we're booking it to Mars, it'll be a whole lot harder to send spare parts after the fact. Let's just make sure we pack accordingly.
(Via The Associated Press)