DARMSTADT,Germany (AP) - Chancellor Angela Merkel quizzed German astronaut ThomasReiter about his scientific experiments, sleeping habits and guitar-playingskills during a linkup Thursday with the InternationalSpace Station's crew.
Reiter, 48, arrivedat the station July 6 aboard the spaceshuttle Discovery. He is to spend six months there - the first EuropeanSpace Agency astronaut to do so.
Merkel, a former scientistwho grew up in communist East Germany, greeted station commander PavelVinogradov in fluent Russian and then asked Reiter how his experiments weregoing.
Reiter told her the crew - whichalso includes U.S. flight engineer JeffWilliams - so far has launched two experiments, one on human balance andthe other aimed at researching respiratory problems.
"So everything's goinggreat,'' a smiling Merkel said from ESA's operations center in Darmstadt, nearFrankfurt. "Have you had any time yet to play the guitar a bit?''
"Unfortunately, therehasn't been much time yet,'' Reiter replied. "I've tuned up the (spacestation's) guitar - a string was broken and I replaced it. But we haven't hadmuch time since the shuttle left; you have to get settled in a bit and be sureeverything's running.''
Merkel also was eager toknow how Reiter, who already has spent 179 days aboard the Russian spacestation Mir, is sleeping.
"I slept wonderfully inzero gravity on my first mission 11 years ago, and that is continuing, thankGod,'' he said.
"I think you're probablysleeping better than people are in Germany right now, because it's beenunbelievably warm here for six weeks,'' said Merkel.
During his time aboard,Reiter plans to carry our 30 experiments in biology, human physiology, physicsand technology.
A key element of hismission is to prepare for a full-scale European science laboratory, to bedeployed to the station in 2007.
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