The astronauts of the space shuttle mission STS-129 experienced dramatic nights on the International Space Station (ISS). On two consecutive nights, they were awoken by false alarms generated by a recently attached Russian module indicating a sudden loss of pressure. The control centers could quickly confirm that the alarms were indeed false but it nevertheless took until the early hours of the following morning before the ISS could be configured back to its normal operational state. Gustav Öffenberger, Flight Director in the Columbus Control Centre in Munich, described the difficulty: "As a result of the first alarm, the complete air circulation in the ISS was automatically shut down. This caused another false alarm from a smoke detector in the Columbus module, so that suddenly we had our hands full with things to do."
The nocturnal disruption was insofar of consequence as a space walk was planned for the next day. One of the goals of this Extravehicular Activity (EVA) was to install an antenna on the outside of the Columbus module. To allow the astronauts enough sleep before their exhausting work, the control centers completely revised the schedule to extend the crew sleep time.
Thus the EVA on 21st November could be performed without problem and the antenna was successfully installed on the European module. This antenna should in future help to improve surveillance of maritime traffic on the world's oceans, at first only as a trial system. Should this concept be proven successful then the system would contribute to maritime traffic safety and thus be a new example of the great benefit of space travel to earth-based applications.