The International Space Station's new Columbus laboratory is now open for business. The 23-foot long, 10-ton research laboratory was opened for the first time Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2008. The Columbus module will be used mainly for microgravity research both internally and externally to the module.
NASA officials have commented that the opening went reasonably well, all things considered. Theres was a small cooling system glitch in the beginning, but nothing that will hamper the overall functioning of the laboratory. Astronauts wore protective gear upon first entering the module, just in case of any debris that had shown up during launch and transport.
Getting the Columbus lab setup, however, is going to be a chore. Astronauts from STS-122 are going to be extending the mission by one day in order to get the Columbus lab fully assembled and ready to go. Atlantis is now scheduled to return on Feb. 19.
Image courtesy of NASA TV.