CSA Astronauts Train in Europe to Operate Weightless Lab on the ISS

Photo of Astronauts Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques in the Columbus simulator

CSA astronauts Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques in the Columbus simulator with ESA instructor Frank Lautenschlaeger, on January 18, 2016. (Credit: ESA/Sabine Grothues.)

Photo of CSA Astronaut Bob Thirsk installs IVIDIL

Former Canadian Space Agency astronaut Robert Thirsk in the Columbus module during Expedition 20/21 in September 2009. (Credit: NASA.)

Photo de l'astronaute de l'ASC Bob Thirsk installe l'IVIDIL

The Canadian Space Agency played a key role in the February 2008 assembly of the Columbus laboratory on the ISS as it was moved into place with Canadarm2. (Credit: NASA.)

The International Space Station (ISS) is a busy laboratory for an assortment of science experiments and technology demonstrations. At any one time, the Station's rotating crew of six astronauts are responsible for the success of an ever-changing lineup of 200 experiments, whose investigators hail from more than 30 countries.

From January 18 to 22, 2016, Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronauts Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques are participating in an intensive hands-on training program on the European Space Agency (ESA) Columbus module, a 75 cubic metre state-of the-art research laboratory, which is an integral part of the ISS.

High-fidelity simulation creates realistic scenarios

The goal of this training, provided by ESA's European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany, is to familiarize the astronauts with and get them qualified as Operators on Columbus's several systems, from Data Management, Electrical Power Distribution, Environmental Control, Thermal Control to Communications. The astronauts are also briefed on the laboratory's architecture and function as well as how it interfaces with the NASA modules. Finally, emergency responses inside the Columbus module are also practised.

Because David and Jeremy may conduct experiments in material science, fluid physics and life science in the laboratory on future space missions, the training also covers the generic experiment facilities—or racks—that ESA operates inside the module. Roughly the size of a telephone booth, each rack can accommodate autonomous laboratories, complete with power and cooling systems for which the results are sent back to researchers on Earth through video and data links. In addition, a payload facility located outside of Columbus also hosts experiments and applications in the field of space science, Earth observation and technology.

The Columbus laboratory is ESA's largest single contribution to the ISS and offers European scientists full access to a weightless environment that cannot possibly be duplicated on Earth.

Learn more about astronaut training