LONDON—Western Europe has solidified its position as the world’s third major force in space following an agreement by the 13-nation European Space Agency to develop its own manned space capability by 2000.

The agreement, reached at a meeting earlier this month of ESA ministers in The Hague, also promises to strengthen the hand of the European nations in their final round of negotiations with the United States over participation in the U.S.-led international manned space station planned for the mid1990s. ESA officials hope in the next two months to finalize the terms on which Western Europe will join the project.

ESA space ministers agreed at The Hague to proceed simultaneously with three projects (see THE SCIENTIST, November 2, p. 6). One is Columbus, a manned laboratory meant to plug into the cen- tral U.S. core of the station. The second is Hermes, a French-inspired mini space shuttle that will...

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