Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Columbus stowed in Atlantis!

As of NASA's shuttle home page, the Columbus ISS module has been stowed inside Atlantis:

The European-built Columbus module has been loaded into the cargo bay of space shuttle Atlantis in preparation for the launch of STS-122 on Dec. 6. Columbus will be attached to the International Space Station and will serve as a laboratory and research center for station astronauts.

The Columbus segment was waiting at the launch pad Saturday when space shuttle Atlantis was rolled into place Saturday at Launch Pad 39A. Once Atlantis' payload section was covered by the Rotating Service Structure, technicians and workers opened the cargo bay doors and carefully moved the cylindrical Columbus into the shuttle. The module has already been packed with four specialized racks outfitted for experiments. Each rack is about the size of a refrigerator. The segment can hold 10 racks.

Atlantis' crew of seven includes two European Space Agency astronauts who will help install Columbus on the International Space Station and activate its intricate systems. One of the ESA crew members will remain on the station for a long-duration mission.

The launch milestones came less than a week after space shuttle Discovery returned to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to complete mission STS-120. That mission delivered the Harmony module to the station and will be the connecting point at the station for Columbus.

This is good news, STS-122 is obviously still on track for its December, 6th launch.

A note on the picture above: I took that photo when I visited Kennedy Space Center (KSC) the day before Discovery's STS-120 launch (October, 22nd 2007). In KSC, you get a bus tour with your "Max Access" admission (and also your launch viewing tickets, which I had). I can highly recommend that tour. It brings you close to real space hardware. Just imagine that I took the above picture of the actual Columbus module that will soon be attached to the ISS - cool ... And if you watch closely, you'll also notice part of the Kibo module (set to launch with STS-123 in February 2008) in the back (right to the middle).

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