Mir: My Mind Is Going

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It's a case of life imitating Arthur C. Clarke: A skittish computer malfunctions aboard a manned space station, putting a bid to retrieve a U.S. astronaut in jeopardy. Mir's main computer may not be a HAL 9000, but it has spent the last three days succesfully resisting all puny human attempts to restart it. The malfunctioning mainframe may prevent space shuttle Discovery from picking up the Australian-born Andrew Thomas this Friday, since NASA flight regs prohibit docking without an operational steering system on the other end. Now shuttle managers are meeting to decide whether to abandon Tuesday's launch altogether.

Of course, the Mir computer has acted up many times before -- during the battered Russian station's string of misadventures last year -- and was successfully rebooted. But it's never baffled the folks in Moscow quite so much. Neither a reboot nor a replaced unit has brought it back online yet. Next up: A telemetry data upload and long-distance restart. The crew is hopeful: "They still have a lot of spares," said mission control spokesman Valery Lyndin. With luck, they'll find the glitch before it strikes up a chorus of "Daisy, Daisy."