European manned space hopes dashed

France has effectively killed off the European Space Agency's (ESA) plans to create an independent manned-spaceflight capability.

The French Government says that it will pull out of ESA's proposed Ariane 5-launched Crew Transfer Vehicle project to support the International Space Station (ISS), for which it was funding about 40%.

The country, however, still plans to continue to send French astronauts to the Russian Mir space station on at least two more commercial flights up to 1999.

French cosmonaut Leopold Eyharts is to be launched on an 18-day mission to the Mir on 28 January, but a four-month mission by Jean-Pierre Haignere in 1999 is more doubtful.

ESA is likely to continue to work with NASA on possible involvement in a US-led X-38 Crew Emergency Return Vehicle project for the ISS, but European astronauts will be flown in the Space Shuttle and Russian Soyuz craft.

Source: Flight International