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First meeting this week

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The European space council is set to meet in Brussels for the first time on Thursday this week. Ministers who sit on the EU's competitiveness council will attend the meeting along with ministerial officials from the European Space Agency (ESA).

The meeting is being touted as the first step towards a co-ordinated European space policy, and the announcement from ESA gives an insight into just how much bureaucratic wrangling goes into a project this size.

In brief: the Space Council sessions were first proposed in a Framework Agreement, which was adopted in 2003, and came into force in May this year. This agreement sets out how the EU will develop a coordinated, pan-European space policy. An outline of how the policy might look already exists - it is the result of three years of effort between ESA and the EU, defining objectives and identifying priorities. The final document is expected to be approved at a space council session towards the end of 2005.

The ESA says that an exchange of views will be at the core of the agenda, along with the almost inevitable progress report. The outcome of the meeting will be made public late on Thursday evening.

In related news, India's space agency says it will be ready to send a man into space in seven years time, if the government gives the go ahead. Madhavan Nair, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, told reporters that the issue of a manned space mission was "glaring before us", and that the goal was very reachable, given adequate funding.

An Indian astronaut was one of six people killed in the Columbia shuttle disaster, International Herald Tribune reports. ®

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