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Thaw on ICE

The hardy little spacecraft ICE, which caught a comet's tail, may have helped smooth the way for renewed American-Soviet space cooperation. United States-Soviet space cooperation has never completely lapsed, even though the governing agreement expired in 1982. When the two Soviet Vega craft now heading for Halley's comet sent probes to Venus, NASA provided helpful tracking. US scientists share in the Vega probes. Meanwhile, Raould Sagdeyev, who heads Soviet unmanned space exploration, was on hand at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center for the Giacobini-Zinner flyby to observe what happens when a man-made probe encounters the poorly known e nvironment of a comet.

Now there appears a desire on both sides to again raise the formal level of US-Soviet joint space research. The Soviets have turned aside US overtures for manned space ventures. But unmanned exploration is another matter.

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Space cooperation is more a barometer of US-Soviet relations than a factor in determining them. It will probably be on the agenda for the forthcoming summit. A new agreement for such cooperation would be a positive signal of some improvement in the two countries' relations -- and a relatively easy signal to send.

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