Astronauts put their mission in the laptop of the gods

Crew on a US space shuttle mission last month had to fall back on computer facilities in Mir, the Russian space station, as the Americans could not use their own laptop. On 24 February the shuttle crew needed to adjust the automated systems performing experiments in the shuttle’s cargo bay. The crew tried to use […]

Crew on a US space shuttle mission last month had to fall back on computer facilities in Mir, the Russian space station, as the Americans could not use their own laptop.

On 24 February the shuttle crew needed to adjust the automated systems performing experiments in the shuttle’s cargo bay. The crew tried to use their laptop to send the instructions.

The crew told mission control in Houston, Texas, that they could not get a DOS prompt on their laptop and asked what they should do.

Houston told the astronauts to do this by pressing ‘start’ and then ‘shutdown’. The crew asked why and then said that anyway they could not do this because their laptop software did not include a mouse.

Pressing ‘Alt’ and ‘Escape’ mission control’s next idea did not work either, the crew said wearily.

Houston then said they would ‘replicate the problem down here’.

After what has been described as a ‘long pause’, Houston told the astronauts to double-click on the MS-DOS icon.

‘I don’t have a mouse,’ the crew complained again.

‘Go the back-up plan,’ mission control then said.

‘Which is what?’ the crew asked.

‘Dock with the Russians. They have a Unix workstation you can borrow.’