The European Space Agency launched its penultimate mission to the International Space Station on Wednesday (June 5), expending great energy to lift a record amount of mass aboard a spacecraft named for the scientist famous for linking the two units with the equation “E=mc^2.”
The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Automated Transfer Vehicle-4 (ATV-4), an unmanned cargo freighter, lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at 5:52 p.m. EDT (2152 GMT). The second to last of ESA’s five planned station resupply spacecraft launched since 2008, ATV-4 was named “Albert Einstein” after the iconic physicist known for the theory of relativity.
Einstein’s theories have been put to the test in space and his work has guided robotic spacecraft to other planets. ATV-4 is the first spaceship to bear Einstein’s name, at the suggestion of the Swiss delegation to the European Space Agency. Einstein was born in Germany but studied and spent his early career in Switzerland.
Lifting off from the jungle spaceport along South America’s northeast coast, ATV-4 soared spaceward with Europe’s largest-ever load of dry cargo for the station. Packed with science experiments, crew supplies, a 3D printed tool box and even copies of Einstein’s manuscript explaining the foundation for the general theory of relativity, the craft is destined to dock with the orbiting laboratory on June 15.