NASA planned yesterday to formally unveil its proposal to build a smaller space station, a plan that won White House approval despite questions about its usefulness. Vice President Dan Quayle, who heads the National Space Council, Wednesday sent a letter to NASA Administrator Richard Truly praising the new design and authorizing him to forward the plan to Congress.
The endorsement came after NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) presented the scaled-back design to the council Monday and rebutted criticism of the plans raised last week by a report from the prestigious National Research Council.
The report charged the new design would not justify its high cost because the smaller size would limit the amount and quality of scientific work that could be conducted on board. The station has been envisioned as an orbiting outpost where astronauts could conduct scientific experiments in life sciences, astrophysics, and materials processing, and perhps use as a staging base for flights to the moon or Mars.
NASA spent about $4 billion over eight years in planning the station. The redesigned station, would be staffed by four astronauts, and is widely viewed as NASA's last chance to save the station program.