Published: Saturday 31 January 1998

The problems with the Mir space station do not seem to get over. On January 2, its main computer broke down again taking the orientation system off-line in the process. Mir's main computer broke down seven times last year. Experts believe that the breakdown of the main computer will not threaten the lives the two Russians and one American on the space station. But frequent breakdown could make life inconvenient on the Mir.

News agencies quoting officials at the mission control just outside Moscow say that the failure of the main computer brought down the gyroscope system that orients Mir's solar panels towards the Sun. However, there is no official confirmation on the crisis.

A computer breakdown usually takes about one or two days to repair. Mir's team recently received a large batch of computer equipment and installed a new computer in November. They are now well- stocked with spare parts should they need to replace any faulty equipment.

When the computer is down, the crew usually fires thrusters to deep the solar panels facing towards the Sun. The crew switches off non-essential systems to conserve power until the computer is repaired and the gyroscopes can be realigned.

Recently, an Italian microbiologist who had been monitoring hygiene on the Russian space station had said filthy conditions had caused its occupants to suffer from food poisoning and other infections. Frequent power failures could further deteriorate the living conditions.

Mir's crew consists of Russian Anatoly Solovyov and Pavel Vinogradov and American Davil Wolf. They have till now managed to fix a number of problems that plagued the space station last year. After a collision with a cargo ship last June, Mir was running on reduced power for months. It had been back at nearly full power before the breakdown on January 2.

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