European space lab Columbus installed on ISS

Last night was successfully installed on the International Space Station the laboratory Columbus. This is a major event as it is the first European module to be part of the ISS.

Both the ESA and NASA, respectively the European and US space agencies, expressed their delight of such a major success on their websites.

Columbus will enable astronauts to perform during ten years many experiments in life sciences thanks to its numerous laboratories.

As the European Space Agency notes on its website :

The Columbus laboratory is ESA’s biggest single contribution to the International Space Station. The 4.5-metre diameter cylindrical

module is equipped with flexible reseach facilities that offer extensive science capabilities.

During its 10-year projected lifespan, Earth-based researchers, together with the ISS crew, will be able to conduct thousands of experiments in life sciences, materials science, fluid physics and a whole host of other disciplines, all in the weightlessness of orbit.

(…) The Columbus laboratory has room for ten International Standard Payload Racks (ISPRs), eight situated in the sidewalls, and two in the ceiling area.

Each rack is the size of a telephone booth and able to host its own autonomous and independent laboratory, complete with power and cooling systems, and video and data links back to researchers on Earth.

ESA has developed a range of payload racks, all tailored to squeeze the maximum amount of research from the minimum of space and to offer European scientists across a wide range of disciplines full access to a weightless environment that cannot possibly be duplicated on Earth.

(…) Outside its comfortable, pressurized hull, Columbus has four mounting points for external payloads. Exposed to the vacuum of space, and with an unhindered view of the Earth and outer space, science packages can investigate anything from the ability of bacteria to survive on an artificial meteorite to volcanic activity 400 km below on the Earth.

(…) Columbus in orbit is only the most obvious and impressive part of the whole research programme. Columbus on the ground will involve researchers all over Europe, who will be able to control their own experiments directly from several User Centres or even directly from their workplaces. Their efforts will be channelled through the Columbus Control Centre in Germany, which will interface with the module itself and also ESA’s NASA partners in the United States.

Like the Genoese navigator for whom it was named, Columbus is set for a long journey of exploration. But thanks to broadband telecommunications, hundreds – perhaps thousands – of explorers will be able to work aboard during its 10-year mission.

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