If NASA frets about Y2k, who can be sure

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If NASA frets about Y2K, who can be sure? Reuters

Wednesday, December 22, 1999

Just when you thought the millennium computer bug had been swatted into submission, NASA reminds us that just maybe there could be serious problems.

If NASA, with all that brainpower and money at its disposal, curtailed its space shuttle mission to fix the Hubble telescope because of Y2K fears, then perhaps other organisations decidedly not on the cutting edge of technology ought to watch out.

NASA mission managers not only wanted the space shuttle Discovery, launched on December 17, in its hanger with all systems powered down by December 31. They also want all the computers at Mission Control in Houston and at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida turned off before the calendar rollover.

NASA said it does not expect any Y2K problems, but officials said recently they did not want to take any chances either.

Other experts still worry about potential trouble from the bug. The fear is that some computers might succumb to the Y2K problem, where programmes using double digit dates like 97 might trip over the zeros in 2000.

Some experts see trouble where rickety technology is typical. Others claim that even the U.S. cannot rest easy.


``I see problems with air traffic control and nuclear power station control and both of those in areas stretching from eastern Europe, not including Poland and the Czech Republic, but going east from there to Japan,'' said Paul Beaver, spokesman for Jane's Defence Weekly.

``Japan will be OK, the Middle East will be OK -- oil is important to them and they're not stupid -- but central Asian republics, these are areas which don't have the resources (to fix problems) and have pirated much software in the past,'' he said.

Beaver is concerned about China, particularly its civil air traffic control and power stations.

``It's almost impossible to be sure (about China). There are so many things which could go wrong,'' he said.


BCS Consulting, in a report published on Tuesday, sees problems in Russia. But it includes countries like the U.S. and Britain, generally thought to be in the forefront of the fight against Y2K bug contamination, in its red for danger category. BCS said this category is for Y2K failure which could have an immediate effect on business life and therefore local society.

BCS said Japan, Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal are also in its most at risk category.

The U.S. and Britain, although leaders in Y2K remediation, rely more on computer networks than others, BCS said.

The safe operation of potentially dangerous materials in oil refineries and chemical plants is also causing concern.


Big operators like Rhone-Poulenc of France, and DuPont Co, Monsanto Co, and Ashland Inc of the U.S. have already decided to close down potentially dangerous installations for the New Year weekend.

Regulatory bodies are concerned about the threat from small and medium sized chemical facilities, rather than those operated by big firms. As late as July, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board sent an open letter to the 50 U.S. governors pointing to the possibility of Y2K-inspired catastrophic events in the nation's chemical and petroleum handling facilities.

Dr Peter Kearns of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said he was concerned about the operation of potentially hazardous installations in less industrialised countries. Smaller operators in industrialised countries were also a worry.

``If things go wrong with computers in offices or banks, that obviously might be bad in some ways, but chemical incidents could endanger life and health,'' Kearns said.

Janes' Beaver also expressed concern about processes which often need to be continuous, but he was positive overall.

``Natural gas and mining can be shut down, although things like pumps need to be working continuously.

There are gases plants and crude oil pipelines; but overall we shouldn't have too many problems,'' Beaver said.

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), December 22, 1999


Great post Homer.... Is there an inkling of doubt popping up as of late? hmmmmm. Just heard this a.m. on the drive to work it is estimated only ? ( 1/3rd of the population ) believes there is a potential for problems during the CDC.

-- kevin (innxxs@yahoo.com), December 22, 1999.

What is CDC??

-- (what@is.cdc), December 22, 1999.

This, I believe, is a good piece to illustrate some pollie/doomer differences. I think there are actually five categories of Y2K followers- 1) doomer that KNOWS what is going to happen, 2) doomer that does not KNOW, but feels it is going to be bad, 3) pollie that KNOWS nothing is going to happen, 4) pollie that does not KNOW, but feels nothing will happen, and 5) those that know they have absolutely no indea. Now, if NASA is admits it does not know, it seems illogical for others, in less of a position to know, to claim they KNOW what will happen- Doomer or Pollie

-- for real (for@real.com), December 22, 1999.

CDC=Century Date Change

-- Helium (Heliumavid@yahoo.com), December 22, 1999.

Is that BCS report available online? I've seen it mentioned a couple of times, and I'd like to check their methodology (and what they are selling).


-- Servant (public_service@yahoo.com), December 22, 1999.

CDC = Century Date Change

-- time traveler (tt) (qwerty@!!!!.nyet), December 22, 1999.

Is this the same NASA who had a problem with O rings, who lost a martian probe just a few weeks ago, who has had their share of failures?

Kevin, this is just one form of planning that many companies have considered during the last year (not just recently popping up). I recall an interview with Perot whose company has being working the Y2K bug for about five years now. He suggested that turning off systems would alleviate a hugh % of Y2K problems. Nothing new here guys.

-- Maria (anon@ymous.com), December 22, 1999.

Change the name of the organization and how many times have we heard this???

"NASA said it does not expect any Y2K problems, but...""

Examples of but...

"Honey I'm going to the Store but if I dont make it back"

"boss I will be in next week but i

-- d----- (dciinc@aol.com), December 22, 1999.

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