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Hubert Curien, 80; led French rocket policy

PARIS -- Hubert Curien, a scientist, former minister, and architect of French space policy regarded as a father of the Ariane series of rockets, died of heart failure Sunday in his secondary residence in Loury. He was 80.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin hailed Dr. Curien as the ''main craftsman of French space policy" and noted the ''exemplary success" of the European Ariane rockets.

As president of France's National Center for Space Studies from 1976 to 1984, Dr. Curien oversaw the first Ariane launch in 1979. He also headed the European Space Agency from 1981 to 1984.

Dr. Curien was born in Cornimont in the eastern region of the Vosges. His parents were civil servants. During Nazi Germany's occupation of France in World War II, Dr. Curien joined a resistance group in the Vosges region, at age 20.

After the war, he graduated from the prestigious Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris.

He taught at the Science Institute and became a director of France's National Center of Scientific Research.

In 1993, he was voted into the Science Academy, of which he later became president. Dr. Curien also was awarded the Legion of Honor, France's most prestigious award.

Dr. Curien served as France's minister of research under four Socialist governments in the 1980s and 1990s.

In 1984, Prime Minister Laurent Fabius drafted Dr. Curien to be his research minister after hearing him speak at a rocket launch.

''France is losing one of its great servants and one of its great spirits," Fabius told the daily Le Monde after Dr. Curien's death.

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