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Spotlight on Columbus

First European ISS commander Frank De Winne visits Airbus Defence and Space

De Winne visits Airbus Defence and SpaceESA’s Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne paid a visit to the Airbus Defence and Space site in Bremen. In a talk addressed to Airbus Defence and Space employees he described his stay onboard the ISS. From 27 May to 1 December 2009, he lived and worked mainly in the European Columbus space lab module, designed and built by Airbus Defence and Space, which he praised very highly.

In his presentation the astronaut related many interesting details about his time as a member of the OasISS mission on the ISS. OasISS was a special mission in several respects – for the first time a crew of six had been present aboard the space station, with the crew members representing all five ISS partners (the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and Europe). During Expedition 21, Frank De Winne was the first non-American and non-Russian to be named as ISS Commander. In Bremen, he made a point of expressing his gratitude to his European predecessors aboard the station, whose excellent work had smoothed the way to his appointment. “I am very proud to have been the first European ISS commander,” he said, “but I would never have had this opportunity without all those European astronauts who had participated in earlier missions or without the support of the European Control Centre.”

An impressive documentary film showing how Frank and his fellow crew members lived and worked aboard the ISS enabled the audience to gain a better appreciation of the tasks and responsibilities required of an ISS astronaut and commander. Much of his presentation focused on the Columbus module, which was not only his place of work but also his ‘home’ for the majority of his time during the mission. He drew attention to several aspects of Columbus that could be described as ‘key selling points’: its practical layout, its high payload capacity, the simple handling of experiments, the quick and efficient cleaning system, and the low level of background noise. Apparently, the module is particularly favoured by the crew as the best place to get some undisturbed sleep!

He carried out numerous experiments during the OasISS mission, some of which involved using the Airbus Defence and Space-developed Microgravity Science Glove Box. His account of life on board the space station was illustrated by a selection of photos and video footage showing experiments he had worked on, the docking of the Japanese HTV supply vessel, and the use of the station’s robotic arms.

Mr De Winne praised the smooth-running international co-operation among crew members and ground stations. He thanked the employees and engineers at Airbus Defence and Space for their outstanding work on the Columbus module. “First of all astronauts are operators and it has been a pleasure and honour to work together with you. I would like to compliment everyone who took part in the Columbus project.”

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