The space station Freedom project, which underwent its most recent redesign in 1991, will face outright cancellation by Congress unless it can come up with yet a new design that cuts development and deployment costs in half, according to officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

At the behest of Vice President Al Gore, a blue-ribbon advisory panel, chaired by Massachusetts Institute of Technology president Charles Vest, is working with the space agency to work up options matching three budget levels--$5 billion, $7 billion, and $9 billion, exclusive of shuttle costs--spread over a four-year period, starting in 1994 and leading up to full deployment of the station by 1998. To date, about $9 billion has already been spent on station development and design.

What's becoming clear is that the role of the station is changing. The Clinton administration does not view the space station as a stepping...

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