Thursday, March 06, 2008

The International Space Station Progresses

Many a high-rise office building boasts about having incredible views, but I doubt there are many that can top this view from the International Space Station. Talk about a "View from the top":

It is the sun setting over the pacific ocean, as photographed from the ISS. You can download a large version of the photo here, it makes a great desktop wall paper.

The space shuttle Atlantis recently completed a mission, in which they delivered and installed a new lab unit to the ISS. The European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory is ESA's biggest single contribution to the International Space Station.

Columbus European Module
[...] The 4.5-metre diameter cylindrical module is equipped with flexible research facilities that offer extensive science capabilities. During its 10-year projected lifespan, Earth-based researchers, together with the International Space Station crew, will be able to conduct thousands of experiments in life sciences, materials science, fluid physics and a whole host of other disciplines, all in the weightlessness of orbit.

To keep costs low and reliability high, Columbus shares its basic structure and life-support systems with the Italian Space Agency's Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules (MPLM). But whereas the MPLM is aptly described as a 'space moving van' - albeit a very sophisticated moving van - the 75 cubic metres of space inside Columbus contains an entire suite of science laboratories. [...]

The following link also has more details, including a clickable thumnail link to a much larger version of the diagram above:

Columbus - Europe's lab at the International Space Station ISS
[...] As the first European laboratory devoted to long-term research in space, Columbus will further expand the science capabilities of the ISS. In its interior, the Columbus laboratory will provide accommodation for experiments in the field of multidisciplinary research into biology, physiology, material science, fluid physics, technology, life science and education. In addition, its external payload facility hosts experiments and applications in the field of space science, Earth observation and technology. [...]

You can follow the links for more fascinating details and photos.

The mission concluded successfully, and the Columbus module is now fully functional. Below is a photo of the the ISS as it exists today, a work in progress:

Bellow is an artist's rendition of what the completed station may look like:

For more information, about the Station, including a neat interactive reference guide/tour of the ISS, visit NASA's website:

The future is happening now... and it's really kewl!

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