NASA estimates for space station exceed targets project at risk

June 08, 1993|By Jeff Leeds | Jeff Leeds,Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON -- NASA designers failed by billions of dollars to meet White House targets for a cheaper, revamped space station, despite promises of a fresh start after several cost overruns.

In its final report yesterday to an oversight committee appointed by the Clinton administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration outlined four proposals for a scaled-back version of the orbiting laboratory, Freedom, but all of them exceeded the White House target range of $5 billion to $9 billion for the fiscal years 1994 through 1998.

The blueprints presented ranged in price from $11.9 billion to $13.3 billion for the five-year period.

The original plan for space station Freedom, introduced by President Reagan in 1984, would cost $34 billion to fully support permanent residence by astronauts by the year 2001, the NASA study released yesterday estimated. The four new designs would cost between $25.2 billion and $30.3 billion to reach the same goal.

NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin had no apologies for failing to meet the targets set by the White House, which asked the space agency to trim space station costs by two-thirds.

The cost assessment by an independent panel "was higher than anticipated," Mr. Goldin said. "But now we have numbers the American public can frame a debate on."

The oversight committee is expected to present its report to President Clinton on Thursday, the same day NASA officials are to appear before a Senate Appropriations panel.

Mr. Goldin said he refuses to believe congressional budgeteers will cancel the project, as they search for more spending cuts to gain Senate passage of Mr. Clinton's economic program.

"I think our country wants to have humans in space. If we don't have a space program, Malthus is going to come out of his grave and say 'I told you so,' " said Mr. Goldin, referring to Thomas R. Malthus, the English economist who predicted the world's human population would outgrow Earth's capacity to support it.

But Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the New York Democrat who heads the Senate Finance Committee, said Sunday the space station would be a likely target for cuts.

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