The European Space Agency announced Tuesday that it had just completed construction of the Columbus laboratory, which will allow researchers to perform an array of experiments on the International Space Station (ISS).
An animation of the European space lab "Columbus"
The lab will be transported to Cape Canaveral in the United States at the end of the May. From there, it is scheduled to be flown aboard a space shuttle to the ISS next year. The Space Transportations unit of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. led the 880 million euro ($1.1 billion) project, which involved around 40 firms from 10 different European Union countries.
Germany shoots for the sky
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who attended a ceremony in Bremen marking the successful completion of the lab, said the project indicates Germany's commitment to the European space program. "It is a small, but important sector in which a country like Germany, which is known as a nation of high technology and leading science, performs very, very well," Merkel said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel with astronaut Thomas Reiter
The 13-ton Columbus is expected to have an operational life-time of at least 10 years, during which Earth-based scientists, with the help of space station astronauts, will be able to conduct gravity-free experiments in the areas of the life and physical sciences, materials science, fundamental physics and medicine.
The lab was originally planned to dock onto the ISS in October 2004, but the explosion of the Columbia space shuttle postponed the mission.