Hacker endangered astronauts on mission to Mir

A hacker interfered with the communications system linking a shuttle docking on Mir to Nasa back in 1997, putting astronauts' lives at risk, Monday's Panorama will reveal

A computer hacker endangered the lives of space shuttle astronauts in 1997 by interfering with the communications system linking the shuttle to Nasa, Monday night's Panorama is expected to reveal.

The shuttle was docking with Russian space station Mir in orbit when a hacker attacked the communications link.

"We had an activity at a Nasa centre where a hacker was overloading our systems," inspector general at Nasa Roberta Gross tells Panorama. "To such an extent that it interfered with communications between the Nasa centre, some medical communications and the astronauts aboard the shuttle."

The hacker is said to have overloaded the system used by Nasa to monitor astronauts' vital signs, although Nasa claims that back-up communications channels protected the astronauts.

Nasa says that it has become a primary target for computer hackers because of the cutting edge technology it uses and warns that the problem is likely to increase.

"This shows the potential that hackers have for doing some real damage to Nasa's mission and astronaut safety," adds Gross.

Tonight's Panorama programme will focus on the vulnerability of Western governments to cyber attacks such as computer hacking and virus writing.

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