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Unseen Parts

A microscopic, broken wire in a backup computer forced NASA to scrub the maiden voyage of the space shuttle Discovery last month, a spokesman for the computer’s manufacturer said Saturday. The broken wire was an integrated circuit within one of the Discovery’s five identical computers which control all the ship’s functions, including communications, navigation and guidance, said Joe Militano, spokesman for International Business Machines. “Engineers isolated the problem to an opening in an integrated circuit in a memory core unit in the computer’s input-output processor,” Militano said. Discovery’s maiden voyage as the third shuttle in National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s fleet was set for June 25, but a backup computer failed just a half hour short of take-off. IBM scientists in Oswego, N.Y., studied the defective computer removed from Discovery and determined the problem had been “a random part failure,” Militano said.

Principle: the greater the attempted achievement or the complexity, the more important the unseen parts.

July 8, 1984, Spokesman-Review