Saturday, February 9, 2008

STS-122 Docks With International Space Station

Shuttle docks with Space Station

Columbus will be the site of an intensive research programme
Shuttle docks
Space shuttle Atlantis has docked at the International Space Station (ISS), where it is to deliver Europe's Columbus science laboratory.

But the laboratory's installation has been delayed, as an astronaut who was to spacewalk on Sunday became ill.

The lab is the first part of the ISS the European Space Agency will control.

The Columbus laboratory cost about $2bn and has room for three researchers in fields ranging from crop breeding to the development of advanced alloys.


Hours after the docking, a Nasa spokesman announced that the spacewalk to attach Columbus to the ISS, originally scheduled for Sunday, was being delayed by 24 hours.

Although no reason was given for the delay, the spokesman also said that Hans Schlegel, the German astronaut who was to have performed the spacewalk, had fallen ill.

Before docking, the crew guided Atlantis in a back-flip manoeuvre that will allow crew on the space station to photograph the shuttle's protective heat-resistant tiles.

Total length - 6.8m
Diameter - 4.5m
Volume - 75 cu m
Launch mass - 12.8t
Operation - 3 crew
Cabin temp - 16-27C
Total power - 20kW

Building Columbus Installing Columbus Inside Columbus
Engineers on earth will check for any possible damage that may have been done to the tiles during take-off: a routine safety measure since the shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entering the earth's atmosphere in 2003.

The 7m-long (24ft), 4.5m-wide (14ft), 12.8-tonne laboratory will be manoeuvred into position by the shuttle's robotic arm, and docked to the station's Harmony Node 2 connector.

Esa astronaut Leopold Eyharts will be staying on the station to commission Columbus, a process that should take a few weeks to complete fully.

Its installation will mean Esa becomes a full member of the orbital project.

Atlantis was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, and is due to return to earth on Monday.

Once the lab is in place, an intensive programme of research in weightless surroundings will begin.

The experiments will also help researchers better understand the physiological demands of long-duration spaceflight, something that will be important if humans are ever to colonise the Moon or travel to Mars.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/02/09 22:02:51 GMT

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