Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Fully Operational

This morning I found myself at the German embassy meeting with the ambassador and members of the European and German space industry. It was a very interesting breakfast where I learned of Germany's contribution to the International Space Station (Germans give more than any other member of the European Space Agency). It is a research lab known as Columbus and is expected to be launched with the help of NASA and the space shuttle by October or November, 2007. Within Columbus, astronauts such as Thomas Reiter, will be able to conduct experiments on plants and other living things. Another area of innovation is the ATV, or Automated Transfer Vehicle, perhaps the most technologically complex module ever designed, relying almost solely on remote controls and robotics. The ATV may ultimately replace the shuttle, scheduled for retirement in 2010.

1 comment:

arrScott said...

Those tricky Germans! They only let us have those plans in order to uncover and destroy our secret base!

The space shuttle has been destroying America's ability to explore, and possibly one day colonize, space for nigh on two generations. We used to be a country that could send its finest aviators and scientists to the moon, but now thanks to 30 years of shuttle dependancy this great nation can barely manage the equivalent of driving its astronauts from Houston to Dallas.

The deaths of seven astronauts in 2002 almost gave us the chance to mothball the shuttle fleet forever and get back to real exploration that would once again do credit and glory to the American experiment.

Instead, Germany offers NASA the space-crack of adding one more useless, gadget-filled lab to add to the space station, which of course requires keeping the shuttle running to get it into space, and so it's two-thousand-oh-freakin'-six, more than four years after Columbia broke up, and we're still debating what might replace the shuttle at some undetermined point in the future.

So thanks, Germany. Thanks a lot. When the first offplanet human settlement is populated by totalitarian Chinese military engineers researching how to use asteroids as terrestrial terror weapons, Berlin can be proud of its contribution.