The international space station can finally live up to its name, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter said.
The German-born Reiter traveled aboard the shuttle Discovery to begin a 6-month term on the space station. That which will make him the first non-American, non-Russian to take to take up long-term residence in the orbital outpost.
"The fact that there is a European representative on board makes the international space station more international," Reiter, who is from Frankfurt, Germany, told reporters on Sunday. "Up to (now) it has been kind of a more bilateral project."
He said "in Europe we are waiting desperately" for the launch of the European-built module for the space station Columbus. The 75-square-meter lab, predominately for science, has been delayed because of shuttle problems and is set for launch in 2007.
"This mission is kind of a precursor," said Reiter, who lived aboard the smaller Russian Mir space station for 179 days. "The international space station in the future will be indeed very international."
While Reiter wanted to talk science and space on Sunday, the European media was more interested in the World Cup, asking Reiter several questions. It did not hurt that the station was later scheduled to be flying over northern Europe at the general time of the start of the World Cup final game.
"There's no time to follow the game on the ground," Reiter said.