Countdown to Columbus launch

ESA's Columbus lab ready for launch on the Space Shuttle Atlantis
6 December 2007

The European Columbus laboratory is scheduled to launch on board Space Shuttle Atlantis later today. The STS-122 mission to the International Space Station is due to lift-off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 22:31 CET (21:31 UT) - follow the launch live on NASA TV.

ESA’s Columbus laboratory is the most important European mission to the ISS to date and the cornerstone of Europe’s contribution to this international endeavour. Once Columbus is attached to the Space Station, ESA will become an active partner in the operation and utilisation of the only permanent outpost in space.

As the first European laboratory devoted to long-term research in space, Columbus will further expand the science capabilities of the ISS. In its interior, the Columbus laboratory will provide accommodation for experiments in the field of multidisciplinary research into biology, physiology, material science, fluid physics, technology, life science and education. In addition, its external payload facility hosts experiments and applications in the field of space science, Earth observation and technology.

Shuttle Atlantis on the launchpad during the evening of 5 December

ESA astronauts Hans Schlegel and Léopold Eyharts are part of the STS-122 crew responsible for bringing Columbus into orbit. Schlegel will play a key role in two of the three spacewalks scheduled for the mission.

Eyharts will remain on board the ISS as a member of the permanent Expedition 16 crew – he will oversee the installation, activation and in-orbit commissioning of Columbus and its experiment facilities.

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