Astronauts on Monday successfully installed the European laboratory Columbus on the orbiting International Space Station, the US space agency NASA said. (Report: N.Rushworth)
HOUSTON, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Astronauts installed the
European laboratory Columbus on the International Space Station
on Monday, finally giving Europe its first permanent research
facility in space.
Leland Melvin and Dan Tani used a robot arm to lift the
gleaming 10-tonne cylinder from the cargo bay of space shuttle
Atlantis and slip it on to a station berthing port in a moment
put off for years by shuttle problems.
"Houston, Munich, the European Columbus laboratory module
is now part of the ISS," French astronaut Leopold Eyharts
radioed as the attachment was completed.
The $1.9 billion Columbus lab, 23 feet (7 metres) long and
nearly 15 feet (4.5 metres) in diameter, is the heart of a $5
billion investment in the space station program by 10 European
countries. It is lined with refrigerator-sized racks to be used
for wide-ranging space research.
Columbus was supposed to have been delivered in 2002 but
was postponed by delays launching the space station's service
module and then the explosion of the shuttle Columbia in 2003
that led to a suspension of flights for 2-1/2 years.
Even at the end, nothing came easy for Columbus.
NASA had to postpone installation for a day when German
astronaut Hans Schlegel, scheduled to take part in an
accompanying spacewalk, fell ill.
Space rookie Stan Love filled in and, working with lead
spacewalker Rex Walheim, prepared Columbus for its move from
the shuttle. In their bulky spacesuits, they struggled to
attach a clasp for the robot arm, falling more than hour behind
The European Space Agency has counted on the successful
deployment of Columbus and the March 8 launch of a cargo ship
to proceed with programs that will include involvement in
NASA's plan to return humans to the moon.
"This will be the first time Europe will have a permanent
base in space," said Eyharts, who launched aboard Atlantis and
then transferred to the station crew to remain in orbit and set
up the new lab.
"We hope that this first participation will help in
reinforcing our technical expertise and our experience of
operations to be able to go further and participate with the
future of space exploration," Eyharts said recently.
Japan is still waiting for NASA to launch its space station
contribution -- a three-part laboratory named Kibo. The U.S.
space agency plans to begin installing the Japanese lab during
its next shuttle mission in March.
NASA has 11 more construction and resupply flights
remaining before the $100 billion station is complete and the
space shuttles are retired in 2010.
Date created : 2008-02-11