WASHINGTON -- Under orders from President Clinton, NASA officials said Wednesday they are going back to the drawing boards to develop new plans for a cheaper, more efficient manned space station.
NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin told the American Astronautical Society the redesign process will yield new plans to put a space station into orbit by the end of the decade at perhaps half the $31 billion price tag for space station Freedom.
Goldin said he was accepting recommendations of outside experts, who said a space station should not rely solely on the space shuttle to carry equipment and personnel into space.
'The (space) station program represents a great deal of dedication and hard work by our people...but in the end it is simply too expensive, ' Goldin said, adding that NASA employees, contractors and researchers must work together for the nation's goals rather than 'eating off of everyone else's plate.'
'We cannot continue to drag along with a 20-year program. We must be lean and quick and vital and do things wisely and efficiently. It is no longer acceptable to launch successfully but have cost overruns along the way,' Goldin said.
He said a faster timetable was essential, because long-term projects never will get state-of-the-art technology into space.
'The president's plan for NASA envisions an agency that spends considerably less on space transportation and space infrastructure and spends more on pumping cutting-edge technology into the private sector,' he said.
Goldin said NASA's management and cost control problems stemmed from the agency's origin during the Cold War era as a showcase for American technology outpacing Soviet space flight.
'We have to become relevant to the post-Cold War world,' said Goldin. 'We cannot do that by hanging onto the past....I want us to start writing history and not reading and talking about it.'
'I personnally am tired of Apollo stories,' Goldin said, referring to NASA's project which landed men on the moon.
The space station Freedom project, under development since 1984, has been a target for congressional critics because of its initial high cost and for large cost overruns.
Among other goals, the orbiting platform is intended as a laboratory to study how humans can survive in space long enough to sustain a flight to Mars or other distant places.
A Space Station Redesign Team held its first meeting Wednesday with agency officials, congressional experts and representatives of other nations involved in the space station project, a NASA statement said.
In a Feb. 23 speech, Clinton called for the space station project to be redesigned.
'We are going to create a lot of jobs in the future through investments in technology and science,' Clinton said.
'I believe that we cannot afford the space station design we have been operating on. And it hasn't been properly funded for years and it's having huge cost overruns.'
'But I think there should be a space station program that supports our shuttle program and supports the kinds of technological benefits that space has produced,' he said.