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Europe's Cosmic Agreement

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The European Space Agency has a new budget and member states have also set aside a bitter debate over the future of the Ariane rocket, the program's commercial workhorse. All sides are happy -- and Russia may even benefit from the deal.

Just one week ago, Europe's space exploration efforts took a significant hit. With several countries in the European Union facing the need to scale back spending in the face of the euro crisis, gathering funding for a proposed landing on the south pole of the moon had proven difficult. And last Friday, with Great Britain, Spain and Italy declining to commit, Germany also backed out. The so-called "Lunar Lander" project came to an end.

On Tuesday night in Naples, however, the European Space Agency (ESA) received a boost. Following difficult minister-level negotiations at the ESA summit, an agreement was reached on the agency's future, guaranteeing both a further development of the Ariane rocket as well as ongoing European involvement in the International Space Station (ISS). As part of that involvement, ESA is to cooperate with NASA on the construction of the Orion capsule to transport both people and goods to and from the ISS.

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