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Plans for International Space Station cut back

NASA and its space partners have approved a scaled-down International Space Station with fewer astronauts and less science so that the United States can meet a 2010 deadline for ending shuttle flights.

Space agencies in Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan gave unanimous approval to a NASA plan that means the orbiting platform, now about half completed, will never become the beehive of scientific and commercial research once envisaged.

In exchange, NASA will continue with plans to launch research modules owned by its partners. The agreement means the station will never support long duration crews of seven astronauts, as intended, but will be able to house at least four astronauts starting in 2009.