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[i]The Russians said Friday they were returning an "experimental U.S space capsule" they had found, but the U.S. space agency said it probably is an old dummy Apollo moonship that blew off a Navy ship two years ago.
Tass, the official Soviet news agency, said the capsule that was discovered by Russian fishermen in the Bay of Biscayne off the coasts of Spain and France would be transferred to a U.S. icebreaker Saturday.
While the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said it was glad to get the thing back, a spokesman said as far as NASA could determine, the object was a dummy Apollo capsule that the Navy lost two years ago while practicing the pickup of astronauts returning from the moon.
"It was later reported by several ships off the coast of Spain as a hazard to navigation, but we never could find it," the spokesman said.
He added that Russians recently asked in a telegram if the United States wanted the capsule back, and information was sent to the U.S embassy in Moscow to help positively identify it.
"We haven't heard from the embassy yet, but we're sure that is what it was," the spokesman said.
Tass said the capsule had been launched into space and would be picked up by the icebreaker Southwind, but the space agency if it was the dummy capsule as it believed, it was never launched anywhere.
"The experimental space capsule which was launched under the Apollo program and was found in the Bay of Biscay by Soviet fishermen will be transferred to U.S. representatives," Tass said. "The U.S. icebreaker Southwind will come to Murmansk to take the capsule on Saturday."
The report did not say when the fishermen found the capsule in the Atlantic Ocean bay, which is cradled by the coasts of Spain and France. It did not describe the capsule.
Tass said William Harben, a U.S. embassy official; Franklin Babbit (Babbitt), a naval attache, and Richard M. Rodnia, a deputy military attache, had arrived at Murmansk Friday.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Moscow had announced earlier that the Southwind, a 268-foot icebreaker sailing northern waters, would call at Murmansk Saturday through Monday to give its crew shore leave. He did not mention the capsule.
"The purpose of the first American icebreaker to call at Murmansk is to provide an opportunity for rest and relaxation for the crew," the embassy said. Capt. Edward D. Cassidy, commander of the Southwind, will be received by a deputy commander of the Soviet northern fleet.
Intourist, the Soviet travel organization, has arranged a sightseeing tour for the ship's 23 officers, 172 men, and 7 oceanographers, which includes visits to a fish-factory ship and a reindeer herd.[/i]
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