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Europeans Unlikely to Back Russia's Manned Space Vehicle

BERLIN --European governments tentatively have declined to take a role in Russia'sClipper manned space vehicle project, saying Europe would not have control overthe program and would be limited to being a small industrial contributor,according to European government officials.

EuropeanSpace Agency (ESA) government ministers discussed a contribution to Clipper anda half-dozen other proposed space investments Dec. 5 during the first of twoscheduled days of meetings here. No decisions will be made until the 17governments finish their deliberations Dec. 6.

But theClipper program won very little support during the first day's discussions,according to French Research Minister Francois Goulard. ESA spokesman FrancoBonacina said after the session that the Clipper proposal -- a two-year researcheffort valued at about 51 million euros ($59.8 million) -- had not found muchbacking.

Russia has proposedthat ESA and Japan join Clipper as an alternative to NASA's Crew ExplorationVehicle. Japanese officials have said they are evaluating the idea and thatthey would be more likely to join the Russian program if Europe did.

Governmentofficials said debate continued on how much Europe should spend on its scienceprogram in the coming years, and on its role in the U.S.-led internationalspace station.

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