Congress Votes to Preserve Space Station

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THE House Wednesday defeated a move to block funding for the space station Freedom after a debate that pitted domestic spending on health and other programs against the space agency's most ambitious project.

Opponents said the station, a proposed manned permanent research craft that will orbit the globe for 30 years, will be a waste of funds that could be better spent on Earth.

But by a vote of 254 to 159 the House rejected an amendment to a $15.3 billion National Aeronautics and Space Administration authorization bill to delete $2.25 billion for the station and put $1.1 billion into other NASA programs including the close-out costs of space station contracts.

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The station is seen as a step toward an eventual return of astronauts to the moon followed by exploration of Mars.

Opponents cited a General Accounting Office estimate that the much-delayed station would cost at least $40 billion to construct and assemble.

Supporters of the project sought to show that it was a benefit to the Earth, saying it offered an opportunity for promising medical and environmental research. They said the proposal to block space station money would "rip the heart out of the space program" and have lost thousands of jobs.

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