Europe is a full partner with the USA, Russia, Japan and Canada in building the 450-tonne International Space Station 400 kilometres above the ground. Up to seven astronauts will live and work there, supervising observations and experiments in pressurized modules and on external platforms.
ESA’s Columbus Laboratory, 6.7 metres long, will join the station in 2004. Other contributions include an Automated Transfer Vehicle for carrying cargo from the Earth, and the European Robotic Arm for the Russian segment. Among many smaller items, European industry provided the electronic brain of the Russian service module, which docked with the station in July 2000.