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Ailing astronaut doing better

Backup readied for spacewalk

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Shuttle Atlantis’ sick German astronaut looked and sounded well Sunday as he helped a crewmate prepare for a spacewalk that should have been his.

In an extremely unusual move, NASA pulled Hans Schlegel off the spacewalk to help install the European lab Columbus at the International Space Station, and delayed the work until Monday, one day later than planned.

Schlegel, 56, a physicist and former paratrooper who has seven children, was fine for Thursday’s liftoff and became ill in orbit, European Space Agency officials said, adding that the condition was neither life-threatening nor contagious.

The hope is that Schlegel will be well enough to take part in Wednesday’s spacewalk, the second of three planned for Atlantis’ space station visit. He was sidelined Saturday, shortly after the shuttle reached the station.

“We’re all keeping our fingers crossed for him to get better soon,” radioed Europe’s Mission Control near Munich, Germany.

NASA refused to give additional details, citing medical privacy. But it’s common knowledge that a majority of astronauts suffer from space motion sickness during their first few days in orbit.

Schlegel huddled Sunday with his replacement, American Stanley Love, and the other spacewalker, American Rex Walheim, as the men got their equipment ready for Monday’s 6 1/2-hour outing.

Love had trained as a backup for the spacewalk and already was assigned to the mission’s third outing.

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