February 15, 2008

Space Station’s Columbus Lab in Ship Shape

Europe's shiny new lab at the International Space Station (ISS) is in fine
shape, according to the astronauts that delivered the new module.

The joint
astronaut crews of the station and NASA's shuttle Atlantis said the European
Space Agency's (ESA) Columbus
was fully activated late Wednesday and performing well.

"It is a
beautiful module," space station commander
Peggy Whitson
told Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel during a
space-to-ground link early Thursday. "We're really happy to have it here."

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 its
outer hull and up to 16 racks of science and hardware inside its 14.7-foot
(4.5-meter) wide interior.

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

will attach two experiments to the 1.4 billion euro ($2 billion) module's
exterior on Friday as their crewmates continue moving interior racks and other
hardware from launch positions into their final orbital flight

The 10 astronauts
aboard the station and Atlantis appeared in NASA video to spend the bulk of
their off-duty
time Thursday
continuing the commissioning of Columbus.

"The module
is in place and it's hard to keep pace with Peggy and Yuri and Dan," said French
astronaut Leopold Eyharts
, of the ESA, of Whitson, ISS flight engineer Yuri
Malenchenko and shuttle astronaut Dan Tani. "I think
Columbus will be ready really soon."

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

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

Aside from
early cooling system issues and a computer command software glitch, which
flight controllers fixed Wednesday, Columbus' activation has gone smoothly,
mission managers said.

everything has been going flawlessly," said NASA station flight director Bob

broadcasting Atlantis' STS-122 mission live on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com's
shuttle mission coverage and NASA TV feed.