The European Columbus laboratory has taken an important step towards launch. Columbus was moved from its work stand at NASA's Space Station Processing Facility and placed inside the payload canister. The canister will transport the module to Launch Pad 39A in preparation for its journey to the International Space Station.
"The empty stand symbolises one of the most visible milestones in the Columbus project," says Alan Thirkettle, ESA's International Space Station Programme Manager. "The transfer to the canister is an essential step forward for the Columbus laboratory towards its launch and its final attachment to the ISS. It is indeed a symbolic moment for all those who have been contributing to the development of Columbus. Another step towards launch, a moment they will remember and of which they can be very proud." The 8-metre long Columbus laboratory has been prepared for flight at the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), in Florida.
The European Columbus laboratory is the cornerstone of ESA's contribution to the ISS and the first European laboratory dedicated to long-term research in space. Columbus will be carried into orbit in the cargo bay of Space Shuttle Atlantis on the STS-122 mission, targeted for launch on 6 December 2007. The STS-122 crew includes ESA astronauts Hans Schlegel and Leopold Eyharts. Eyharts will remain on the ISS for two months as a member of the Expedition 16 crew to oversee the in-orbit commissioning of Columbus and its experimental facilities.