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Astronauts replace broken computer

Rick Mastracchio worked on installing the computer on Wednesday. The task was done in less than an hour.

NASA TV via AFP/Getty Images

Rick Mastracchio worked on installing the computer on Wednesday. The task was done in less than an hour.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Spacewalking astronauts easily replaced a dead computer outside the international space station on Wednesday and got their orbiting home back up to full strength.

The two Americans on board, Rick Mastracchio and Steven Swanson, hustled through the urgent repair job, swapping out the computers well within an hour. The new one tested fine.

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‘‘Excellent work, gentlemen,’’ Mission Control radioed.

The removed computer, a critical backup, failed nearly two weeks ago. The prime computer has been working perfectly, but NASA wanted to install a fresh spare as soon as possible.

Replacing the computer — a compact 50-pound box — involved just three bolts, hardly anything for a spacewalking chore.

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Engineers do not know why the original failed. Mission Control asked the spacewalkers to keep an eye out for any damage that might explain the breakdown. Nothing jumped out.

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