After 22 trips into space, Spacelab - Europe's first step into human spaceflight - has returned to Europe. On 16 April at 10:00, NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin will officially hand the space laboratory over to ESA Director General Antonio Rodota`, in the presence of German Chancellor Gerhard Schr(der, at a ceremony at the Bremen airport in Germany, the city where the module was built more than two decades ago.
The laboratory, to be housed in a special exhibition hall at the Bremen airport, will be the foundation stone for Space Academy Bremen, a new educational venture between DaimlerChrysler Aerospace and Bremen University that will give students and the general public the opportunity to learn first-hand about Europe's achievements in the human exploration of space.
Europe's involvement in human spaceflight began shortly after the Apollo moon landings in 1969 when the future of space exploration was being determined. Europe and the US agreed that NASA would build a re-usable space plane, the Space Shuttle, while ESA would contribute the laboratory carried in the Shuttle's cargo bay where astronauts could conduct scientific research in the unique environment of space. ESA entrusted the development of Spacelab to a consortium of European companies led by ERNO of Bremen, today a part of DaimlerChrysler Aerospace.
Two Spacelab flight units were built. The laboratory returned to Europe flew on the final Spacelab flight, the Neurolab mission in April 1998, and was used for both German Shuttle missions, D-1 and D-2, among others. The second flight unit, which flew on Spacelab's maiden mission in 1983, will be preserved along with other pieces of American space history at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Europe's experience with building Spacelab has inspired the Columbus laboratory, Europe's main property to be added to the International Space Station in 2003. Columbus is based on the same concept and technologies but, in contrast to Spacelab's eight-day to two-week missions, it will serve as an outpost for continuous research in orbit.
For further information, contact ESA Public Relations in Paris at Tel: +33 (1) 53 69 71 55, Fax: +33 (1) 53 69 76 90.
For press accreditation for the hand over event in Bremen on 16 April, 10:00-11:30, contact:
Mathias Spude (Tel: +49 (421) 539 5710) or Kirsten Leung (Tel: +49 (421) 539 5326)- Public Relations -DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, Bremen, Germany
For information on ESA and its human spaceflight activities, see the web page: http://www.esa.int/spaceflight/