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[i]The Soviets have plucked from the ocean a U.S. space capsule they describe as part of the Apollo moonshot program and plan to return it to American officials this weekend, the official Tass news agency said.
Checks with U.S. Embassy officials indicated the Soviets have had at least two weeks to examine the space hardware and U.S. officials knew it, but their decision to return it at this time came as a surprise.
One embassy spokesman said U.S. officials had viewed the object Friday and could not confirm it was an Apollo program item. But he added "it was my impression from their report it is a whole piece of equipment" and not a fragment.
The Soviets said bluntly they intended to put the capsule aboard the U.S. icebreaker Southwind, which was putting into the Bering Sea port of Murmansk Saturday for three days. U.S. officials said subsequently they had asked Washington for permission to make the transfer.
A three-paragraph announcement by Tass Friday afternoon gave the first inkling the Russians had any U.S. space gear.
An "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," it said.
"The U.S. icebreaker Southwind will come to Murmansk to take the capsule on Saturday."[/i]
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