In 1996, the European Space Agency ESA awarded EADS Astrium the contract for the complete development and integration of the Columbus space laboratory, the European contribution to the international space station. Columbus is a pressurized laboratory 6.7 metres long and four and a half metres in diameter, with its own survival system. Three astronaut-researchers will be able to carry out fundamental research work, covering material sciences, medicine, pharmaceuticals, human physiology, biology, Earth observation, fluid physics and astronomy. It will be permanently docked to the ISS, operating for at least 15 years.
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