28.02.2008

Research work on board the COLUMBUS commencingn

COLUMBUS modul at the ISS
© NASA-ESA

Thale cress has been growing on board the COLUMBUS module of the International Space Station ISS since this morning, marking the commencement of the first biological experiment on board the COLUMBUS. The first results are to be available in two weeks’ time. Funded by the German Aerospace Center DLR and known as WAICO, this experiment aims to explore the effects of weightlessness on root growth compared with gravity conditions on the earth’s surface.

The French astronaut Léopold Eyhardts has defrosted the plant seeds and planted them in eight special containers. The experiment will be concluded after 14 days of plant growth, during which time the progress of the plants will be photographed daily. The seedlings will then be chemically fixed and rinsed fully automatically. After that, they will be taken back down to earth on the next shuttle flight, after which they will be evaluated by scientists. The OHB model provides for fully automatic execution of the experiment. WAICO was designed, developed and built for ASTRIUM GmbH in Friedrichshafen and the European Space Agency ESA. OHB was also materially involved in the preparations of the biological samples and the components of the experiment.

Medical laboratory operating successfully

OHB also developed and built the medical research laboratory EPM for the European Space Agency ESA. A good week after the launch of the Shuttle, astronaut Eyhardts placed the first payload in the COLUMBUS module in operation as planned. OHB staff at the EPM control center in Toulouse guided him through the start-up phase. The superb quality of the laboratory and the support provided by the OHB team were expressly praised by ESA and the French space agency CNES. Prof. Manfred Fuchs, CEO of OHB-System, who came up with the name of the COLUMBUS module, was also very pleased and is confident that “progress will be made and space exploration taken to a new dimension with these experiments.”

Currently being prepared, the first main experiment for EPM, NEUROSPAT, is to investigate the ways in which the crew members’ three-dimensional perception is affected by weightlessness.

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