Germany's Reiter: Chemical leak on the ISS less dramatic than it appeared from Earth

The chemical leak in the International Space Station earlier this week was much less dramatic than it initially appeared and did not cause anyone to fall ill, German astronaut Thomas Reiter said Friday.

Speaking by video uplink to a news conference at the European Astronaut Center, Reiter said the leak, described by NASA as a chemical reaction, "smelled pretty strongly," but was swiftly brought under control.

"It was far less dramatic than it might have seemed from Earth," Reiter said from the station, where he is conducting experiments for the European Space Agency and paving the way for a new European-built lab to be installed next year.

The leak occurred as six astronauts from the space shuttle Atlantis were aboard the station. Atlantis landed safely in Florida on Thursday after a 24-hour delay due to debris seen floating near the craft.

Besides the shuttle mission, a Russian Soyuz brought two new crew members, as well as Iranian-born space tourist Anousheh Ansari, a businesswoman from Dallas, Texas.

The presence of so many additional people in the station meant it was "extra cramped," Reiter said, but he added that Ansari was enjoying her visit and was taking a lot of pictures, reports AP.

"The mood on board is good," Reiter said.

Once the Soyuz departs, Reiter and the station's two new crew members would get to work on preparations for future expansion of the station. Over the next year, new solar plans are to be installed, to provide from 17 to 20 kilowatts of power enough to run the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory, which is to be installed in August 2007.

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