German-built space lab
TWIG - The German-built Columbus space laboratory — Europe’s biggest single contribution to the International Space Station — has arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for one last pit stop on its way to a final destination in the inky depths of space.
The lab, which took ten years to complete, will allow researchers to conduct a broad range of scientific experiments in the weightlessness of orbit.
"We made Columbus today so that tomorrow we can find answers to questions we today do not even know," said Alan Thirkettle, from the European Space Agency (ESA), at a ceremony marking the module’s arrival in Florida last Friday.
Columbus is scheduled to be flown aboard a space shuttle to the station in the second half of 2007. Once in orbit, its operations will be managed from the new Columbus Control Center in the Munich suburb of Oberpfaffenhofen.
The cylindrical, 26-foot-long module was built by EADS Space Transportation in the northern port city of Bremen at a cost of approximately $1 billion.
It provides enough space for three crew members to conduct experiments under zero-gravity conditions.
In the laboratory, scientists can carry out investigations in all disciplines of basic research such as biotechnology, medicine and materials science as well as experiments in applied technology projects.
In a separate development in Germany’s efforts to unlock the mystery and wonder of space, officials said German astronaut Thomas Reiter is about to become the first European to live and work on the International Space Station (ISS) on a long-duration mission.
Reiter will reach the ISS on a space shuttle flight currently planned for July, with his return to Earth scheduled for February, the ESA said in a statement.
It will be Reiter’s second long-duration mission on board a space station, following his six-month stay on the Russian Mir ten years ago.
"I am confident that this mission will give Europe a lot of
operational experience and scientific results which will further prepare us
for the exciting and challenging times ahead," he said.
European Space Agency
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