Astronauts install experiments, observer on Columbus lab

February 16th, 2008 - 11:56 am ICT by admin  

Washington, Feb 16 (DPA) Europe’s newest and most important addition to the space station, the Columbus laboratory, was dressed up with added experiments and observatories during a space walk. US astronauts Rex Walheim and Stanley Love spent nearly seven and a half hours outside of the International Space Station (ISS) in the third and final outing of the Atlantis shuttle crew Friday.

Atlantis is due to undock from the ISS Monday and return to Earth Wednesday.

Walheim and Love installed two European science projects - an observatory to monitor the sun for two years, appropriately called SOLAR, and the European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF) that carries nine experiments requiring exposure to the space environment.

In a moment of high space drama Monday, the ISS team, including Love and Walheim on the outside and a robotic arm operated from inside, removed the 4.5-metre-diameter cylindrical Columbus from the Atlantis shuttle cargo bay and installed it permanently on the station.

The European Space Agency had to wait four years for the moment as the NASA shuttle programme recovered from the 2003 Columbia shuttle disaster and tested new safety programmes.

During its 10-year life span, Columbus is to host thousands of experiments in life and materials science, fluid physics and other disciplines.

Atlantis and its seven astronauts are to undock at 09.26 GMT Monday.

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