Space shuttle Atlantis and its crew of seven astronauts launched on spectacular plumes of gold-tipped smokeThursday carrying Europe’s primary contribution to the International Space Station – the Columbus science laboratory. The lab is filled with racks for experiments and research euipment and has fixtures on its exterior to also host research exposed to the vacuum of space. It represents the latest international addition to a facility already made of structures from the United States, Russia and Canada.“It shows that there is a real partnership between communities,” NASA Administrator Mike Griffin said. The launch was crucial for the European Space Agency because the Columbus lab represents a cutting edge research facility for Europe and the continent’s first manned spacecraft.
Atlantis’ liftoff came despite concerns that a weather front would interfere. But those concerns did not materialize and the launch team sent Atlantis aloft at the appointed time.
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