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A single, severed cable cut contact between Russia and its satellites

The severed connection also kept Roscosmos from communicating with the International Space Station.

The severed connection also kept Roscosmos from communicating with the International Space Station. // NASA

Yesterday, at approximately 7:22 p.m., local time, the Moscow's Mission Control experienced something you never want to happen when the mission you're controlling is playing out outside the planet: silence. Complete, utter silence. Roscosmos, Russia's space agency, had lost contact with its satellites -- all of them. Which meant, as well, that it had lost contact with the International Space Station, and with the cosmonauts who call it home.

"Our specialists lack the ability to control the civilian satellites or send commands to the Russian segment of the ISS," a Roscosmos worker told RIA Novosti, Russia's state-owned news agency, at the time of the malfunction. That worker estimated that the glitch would take at least 48 hours to fix.

It ended up taking a little less than that -- and the malfunction has now been corrected. But the space-based silence, it turns out, was the result of a very terrestrial accident: While doing repair work on the Shchyolkovsky Highway outside of Moscow, a construction team severed a cable. And it turned out, unfortunately, to be the cable -- the one linking Moscow's Mission Control to the nation's extraterrestrial vehicles and workers.  

Read the story at The Atlantic.

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