Late at night the most important moment of the Space Shuttle mission 15A for the European Scientific User Community took place. During the night of March 12, 2009 astronaut Koichi Wakata carefully moved the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostic Facility (PCDF) out of shuttle Discovery to its final destination in the Columbus module.
The highest priority of the Houston control center was focused on the extravehicular activity outside the space station where the forth set of solar arrays were installed. In parallel the Columbus control team in Munich was fully concentrated on the crystallisation experiment. "The experiment can only survive for a short time without electrical power and cooling. We were prepared for all contingencies", explains Celine Schöne who for many months was involved in the preparation for the facility installation. Also the acting Columbus Flight Director, German Zoeschinger, was very pleased: "The interaction between ISS crew and our team on ground worked very well."
The PCDF experiment runs remotely controlled from ground after its installation in Columbus. The experiment investigates the formation and growth of biological macromolecule crystals under micro gravity conditions. The scientists are able to monitor the growing process via camera pictures and interferometric methods.