News from space, as the American shuttle Atlantis lifts off to carry the new European space laboratory to the international space station.
The laboratory is called Columbus after the director of the Harry Potter films, and will be using Wingardium Leviosa to get into orbit.
No, sorry, I made that last bit up. ACTUALLY, hard-working 24-hour Polish plumber-nauts have now bolted the Columbus onto the rest of the space station and it is ready to begin its ten-year mission to boldly… oh, you know the drill.
Meanwhile, preparations are being made for the launch of the European Space programme's brand-new spaceship: the Jules Verne.
Not so elegant as the delta-winged, reusable (ish) Space Shuttle, the Jules Verne – or more prosaically ATV (Automatic Tin Vessel) – is basically a great big can of beans with a rocket on the back. It will provide all of the FOOD and FUEL for the International Space Station mission – hence can of beans. Plus there is room for water, oxygen and all-important air-freshener.
If successful – and it had better be! – the ATV will be taking up the slack in keeping the Space Station running once the shuttle fleet reaches the end of its working life and is retired in 2010.
Possibly a LITTLE bit disturbing is the news that the launch window has to be determined by the Shuttle missions: the ATV and the Shuttle cannot both be in space at the same time… because they use the same SAT NAV.
Why am I now expecting to hear that seven-and-a-half tonnes of beans and rocket fuel has ended up ditching in a canal near you?