Under contract to the European Space Agency (ESA), EADS Astrium is prime contractor for the Columbus space laboratory, one of the primary European contributions to the International Space Station (ISS). Columbus is a pressurized laboratory 6.7 metres long and four and a half metres in diameter, with its own survival system. Astronaut-researchers on board the ISS are currently carrying out a number of experiments, covering material science, medicine, pharmaceuticals, human physiology, biology, Earth observation, fluid physics and astronomy. Columbus will be permanently docked to the ISS, operating for at least 15 years. During the programme EADS Astrium successfully managed 41 subcontractors from 14 countries, bringing together an exceptional combination of state-of-the art space engineering expertise. EADS Astrium delivered Columbus to NASA on schedule in May 2006. Successful launch and docking to the ISS took place in February 2008. Since Columbus has been operational, astronauts have conducted dozens of valuable experiments.
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