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The EU supports Galileo; Columbus will launch towards the ISS; and Atlantis is ready to lift off

NASA is ready to launch shuttle Atlantis and its seven-person crew towards the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday.  Atlantis will ferry five NASA astronauts and two European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts, and will be commanded by a NASA pilot.  The scheduled 4:31 p.m. EST launch will take the Europe's Columbus space laboratory to the ISS, where the astronauts will be responsible for helping install it.  Atlantis is safely on its launch pad, "with no major issues or concerns regarding that vehicle."

NASA estimates 10 more manned missions will be needed before construction can be completed on the ISS.  

European Union officials declared the EU will press on with the pricey Galileo space project.  Representatives of Spain initially did not express support for the multi-billion euro project, but ultimately decided to to support the mission.  Transport ministers from 26 of 27 EU member states approved of the deal, hoping to move the project one more step towards completion.  The satellite will be used to create a satellite GPS system that is similar to the one utilized in the United States -- it will help EU lower its heavy dependence on American GPS technology.

Officials during summer discussions mentioned if a deal couldn't be reached by January 2008, the entire Galileo mission would have been eliminated.

The European space laboratory Columbus will launch towards the ISS next week - 15 years later than expected.  The $2 billion lab project began in 1982, but faced a number of delays and other technical difficulties during its construction.  The European Space Agency (ESA) originally wanted to launch Columbus to the ISS in 1992, hoping to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the trip Columbus made to America, but NASA had a number of projects backlogged.

Columbus will provide astronauts a laboratory to study weightless liquid, different organisms, tissues and cells.




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