Houston…We Have A System-Level Problem

You can’t just send out for new parts when you’re spinning through outer space with no power or communications.

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Just imagine what happens when the guidance system on the International Space Station goes on the fritz and the entire lab begins doing somersaults through outer space. Then the solar panels no longer work and the communication system fails, and suddenly you understand how serious system-level design problems can become. Ret. Capt. Daniel Bursch recounts the incident from the safety of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.