Last European cargo vessel docks with space station

Paris, Aug 12 (EFE).- The fifth and last of the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicles docked Tuesday with the International Space Station to make a delivery of 6.6 tons of supplies.

The docking, which was broadcast live over the Internet, was accomplished at 1:30 p.m. GMT.

Dubbed the Georges LemaƮtre in honor of the Belgian astronomer who introduced the Big Bang theory in 1927, the ATV-5, which lifted off on July 30 from the ESA's spaceport in French Guiana, rendezvoused with the Russian Zvezda module of the ISS thanks to a sophisticated automatic navigation system with laser sensors.

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst was tasked with opening the hatch to unload the spare parts, clothing, food, fuel, air, oxygen and water for the six ISS crewmembers.

Among the items transported to the orbiting lab, which circles some 410 kilometers (254 miles) above the Earth, was the ESA's "electromagnetic levitator," developed to study the behavior of metals when they are heated to 1,600 C (1,911 F) and are then allowed to cool without coming in contact with any container.

When it concludes its stay at the ISS after about six months, the cargo vessel will burn up during reentry into the Earth's atmosphere putting an end to the ATV program, technology that began to be developed in 1992 and which flew its first mission in March 2008.

Supplying the ISS will remain in the hands of other members of the program like Russia, the United States and Japan.