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Columbus, one year on orbit

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Copyright ESA

Exactly one year ago today, the European Columbus laboratory arrived at its berth on the International Space Station, signalling the start of a new era for Europe in human spaceflight.

At 22:44 CET (21:44 UT) on 11 February 2008, NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Peggy Whitson initiated final capture of the newly delivered module. From that moment on, firmly attached to the right side of the Node 2 module, the European Columbus laboratory officially became a part of the International Space Station (ISS). Europe now had its first permanent human outpost in orbit.

Columbus closes in on Harmony

Columbus is manoeuvred towards its final location on the right side of Node 2 Orbital infrastructure

“Columbus provides ESA with its very own piece of orbital infrastructure. This allows us to perform our own ISS utilisation programme; it also gives Europe’s Astronaut Corps flight opportunities and it provides us with invaluable experience in the operation of a human spaceflight infrastructure,” explains Bernardo Patti, ESA ISS Programme Manager.

One day later, on 12 February 2008, the hatches between Columbus and the Space Station were opened and the crew entered the module for the first time in orbit. ESA astronauts Léopold Eyharts [...]

Plant growth experiment starts in Columbus

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Copyright ESA

ESA astronaut Léopold Eyharts has activated the first experiment inside the European Columbus laboratory. The WAICO experiment, which investigates the effect of gravity on plant root growth, has started inside the module’s Biolab facility.

WAICO, short for Waving and Coiling of Arabidopsis Roots at Different g-levels, looks at the growth of two types of Arabidopsis seed. In all, two different sets of seeds – wild type and genetically modified type – will be allowed to grow under varying levels of gravity, 0g and 1g, where g is the equivalent of gravity on Earth.

The tiny Arabidopsis seeds will be left to grow for 10 to 15 days, under controlled temperature, humidity and illumination conditions. Daily video images document how the roots grow in space. Using Biolab’s telemetry capabilities, the video images are also made available on the ground for real-time observations.

Biolab is designed to support biological experiments As the seeds grow, the experiment’s lead scientist, Professor Guenther Scherer from the Leibniz Universitat Hannover, Germany, will observe how the level of gravity affects the characteristic spiralling and coiling root growth seen on Earth.

The results of the WAICO experiment will contribute to a better understanding of plant growth [...]

Columbus installed in new home on ISS

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Copyright ESA

The European Columbus laboratory has completed its voyage to the International Space Station. Columbus was officially attached to the right side of the Harmony module at 22:44 CET this evening.

ESA astronaut Leopold Eyharts, who was at the controls of the Station’s robotic arm for the final capture and initial berthing of Columbus, reported to Mission Control, “The European Columbus module is now part of the ISS.”

Columbus was installed during the first spacewalk of the STS-122 mission. From outside the ISS, astronauts Rex Walheim and Stanley Love prepared the module for installation before the Station’s robotic arm was used to lift Columbus into position.

“Another great day for the European Space Agency. A great day for our European industry and a great day for Europe in general.” said Alan Thirkettle, ESA’s ISS Programme Manager.

“Now we have four of the international partners with their elements on the Station. It is really becoming the international Space Station. We are very much looking forward to having the fifth partner join us next month.” he added.

The hatch between the ISS and the Columbus laboratory will be opened for the first time tomorrow, Tuesday 12 February. Partial ingress will occur [...]