The Columbus laboratory, artist's impression
On 7 February 2008, the European Columbus laboratory was launched and became an integral part of the International Space Station, bringing years of organisation and hard work to fruition. With a projected lifetime of ten years, it will write history as the first European space laboratory dedicated to long-term research under space conditions.
The German astronaut Hans Schlegel and his French colleague Léopold Eyharts were crew members on the Columbus assembly and commissioning mission and took off on space shuttle Atlantis flight STS-122 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as part of a seven-man crew together with five NASA colleagues.
The Columbus mission consists of different parts. In the first part, the European laboratory was attached to the ISS, activated and commissioned during the eleven-day STS-122 mission. During the third extra vehicular activity (EVA), astronauts attached the European external experiment package and performed other assembly and maintenance work. During his stay in space, Hans Schlegel also carried out experiments and PR activities.
After undocking of the shuttle, the Columbus mission was continued by Léopold Eyharts, who remained on the station for three months as an ISS expedition crew member. In addition to his duties as second ISS flight engineer, he continued to commission Columbus, activate its internal experiment facilities and undertake European research, PR and educational activities.
Columbus financing at a glance
Columbus - High-tech made in Germany
As the principal contractor for Columbus, EADS Astrium in Bremen led a consortium of 41 companies from 14 countries which is responsible for developing, building, integrating, and testing the laboratory.
A fixed-price contract on the development of Columbus was signed in March 1996. The overall cost of the module amounts to 880 million Euros, test facilities included, of which about 450 million Euros will go to the German industry.