An alarm woke the crews aboard space shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station at 8:36 p.m. EST Thursday. Flight controllers in Houston, Europe and Russia quickly concluded the alarm was false. An erroneous indication of a rapid depressurization led to the automatic shutdown of ventilation fans throughout the station, which stirred up dust and led to a false smoke detection alarm in the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory.
It took about an hour to reactivate the ventilation fans and stabilize the station atmosphere following the incident. The crews have been warned to watch out for pockets where carbon dioxide has accumulated.
The initial cause for the false depressurization indication is under evaluation. Mission control Capcom Frank Lien told station Commander Frank De Winne it might have originated with the Poisk mini-research module that docked to the station earlier this month.
The space station crew will wait until ventilation is restored before going back to sleep. The shuttle crew has already been given the “go” from teams on the ground to go back to sleep. To make up for the sleep they lost reacting to the alarm, the sleep period has been extended by 30 minutes. The new wake up time will be 4:28 a.m. EST.