NASA officials revealed last night that a computer destined to become part of the International Space Station had been intentionally sabotaged.
Space officials announced that NASA had been alerted to the possible sabotage early last week by an unnamed subcontracting company. An employee of the company had apparently purposefully damaged two machines, one due to fly in space and one not.
When the company discovered the problem with the non-flying machine, it alerted NASA, which had already received the other computer: and this too was found to have been meddled with.
The Associated Press quotes Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA space operations head honcho, as saying that his people would have discovered the problem during pre-flight testing even had they not been informed.
"The damage is very obvious, easy to detect," he told reporters. "It's not a mystery to us."
It appears that wires were physically cut inside the unit, described by NASA as being intended to monitor strain on one of the space station's structural members and downlink the info to ground controllers. Gerstenmaier reportedly expected that the equipment would be repaired and ready to fly aboard the shuttle Endeavour on 7 August.
"I don't want to speculate on motivation," Gerstenmaier said. "There's an active investigation going on and I'd rather let that get handled that way."
He said the sabotage occurred outside Florida, and that NASA had surveyed all parts provided by the company at which the mysterious miscreant worked.
"There's no concern about anything that's on orbit," he told the press.
This latest misfortune joins a long roll of problems at NASA, with recent reports of drunkenness and exotic crimes of passion involving nappies among the astronaut corps, as well as various items being hurled off the space station to fiery destruction - sometimes without paperwork being adequately completed - and a machinists' strike in Florida.
Never a dull moment down at the space agency. ®
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