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Brief Scare Aboard Space Station as Shuttle Heads Home


NASA says a spill of a toxic irritant aboard the International Space Station set off a short-lived emergency Monday but that the crew members' lives were never in any danger.

Officials say the station's emergency system was activated after the crew detected an odor, which turned out to be the chemical potassium hydroxide leaking from a vent. NASA's space station manager, Mike Suffredini, says at no time did the crew have to don gas or oxygen masks.

Suffredini says the emergency will not affect Wednesday's scheduled docking of the Russian Soyuz rocket. The Soyuz is carrying Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian-American woman who is the first female space tourist.

The incident came a day after the space shuttle Atlantis undocked from the orbiting outpost after its astronauts successfully carried out three challenging spacewalks to install a pair of solar wings on the station. Atlantis returns to Earth Wednesday.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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