Space Station's Columbus Lab in Ship Shape

Space Station's Columbus Lab in Ship Shape
STS-122 shuttle and station crew members speak to German Chancellor Angela Merkel from inside the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory.
(Image: © NASA TV)

HOUSTON —Europe?s shiny new lab at the International Space Station (ISS) is in fineshape, according to the astronauts that delivered the new module.

The jointastronaut crews of the station and NASA?s shuttle Atlantis said the EuropeanSpace Agency?s (ESA) Columbuslab was fully activated late Wednesday and performing well.

?It is abeautiful module,? space station commanderPeggy Whitson told Germany?s Chancellor Angela Merkel during aspace-to-ground link early Thursday. ?We?re really happy to have it here.?

Columbus,the ESA?s largest contribution to the $100 billion space station, is a 23-foot(7-meter) long pressurized cylinder capable of carrying experiments on itsouter hull and up to 16 racks of science and hardware inside its 14.7-foot(4.5-meter) wide interior.

A new ESAcontrol center outside Munich, Germany is overseeing the 10-ton laboratory 24hours a day.

Spacewalkerswill attach two experiments to the 1.4 billion euro ($2 billion) module?sexterior on Friday as their crewmates continue moving interior racks and otherhardware from launch positions into their final orbital flightconfiguration.

The 10 astronautsaboard the station and Atlantis appeared in NASA video to spend the bulk oftheir off-dutytime Thursday continuing the commissioning of Columbus.

?The moduleis in place and it?s hard to keep pace with Peggy and Yuri and Dan,? said Frenchastronaut Leopold Eyharts, of the ESA, of Whitson, ISS flight engineer YuriMalenchenko and shuttle astronaut Dan Tani. ?I thinkColumbus will be ready really soon.?

Eyharts,who launched aboard Atlantis with his crewmates on Feb. 7, replaced Tani as amember of the station?s Expedition 16 crew and will oversee Columbus?outfitting after the shuttle undocks next week. Tani will return to Earthalongside Atlantis? STS-122 astronauts when they land on Feb. 20.

Commandedby veteran shuttle astronaut Stephen Frick, Atlantis? STS-122 crew is in themiddle of a 13-day mission to deliver Columbus and Eyharts to the station. The shuttleis slated to undock on Monday.  

Aside fromearly cooling system issues and a computer command software glitch, whichflight controllers fixed Wednesday, Columbus? activation has gone smoothly,mission managers said.

?Virtuallyeverything has been going flawlessly,? said NASA station flight director BobDempsey.

NASA isbroadcasting Atlantis' STS-122 mission live on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sshuttle mission coverage and NASA TV feed. 

  • VIDEO: ESA's New Science Laboratory
  • IMAGES: STS-122 Launch Day for Shuttle Atlantis
  • Complete Space Shuttle Mission Coverage

 

Have a news tip, correction or comment? Let us know at community@space.com.