Wow, seems that as the shuttle Discovery is being hauled out to the launching pad to prepare for an early December launch, we learn that NASA has no idea what the on-board computers will do during a new year transition from Dec 31-Jan1.
They can not say with a high level of confidence that the computers will handle that transition gracefully, in fact there is enough worry that they are mitigating it by trying to ensure they land on New Year’s Eve. Or in case something happens and they need to remain in space ’till the new year, NASA is devising a strategy to hack together some procedures to work around the problem though they don’t indicate they know yet how they’ll do it. Here’s a quote to inspire confidence from a Discovery astronaut:
“We’ve just never had the computers up and going when we’ve transitioned from one year to another,” said Discovery astronaut Joan Higginbotham. “We’re not really sure how they’re going to operate.”