THE resounding show of support by the House of Representatives for Space Station Alpha on Wednesday in a 278-155 vote comes as a relief to Texas, which saw the Superconducting Super Collider axed last fall. Much of the work on the space station is done in Texas.
The vote means the space station will receive $2.1 billion in fiscal 1995, which begins Oct. 1, if the measure is passed by the Senate. The United States has spent $12 billion since 1985 on the program. Last week's historic agreement to include Russia - a move that could save the US $2 billion - makes Space Station Alpha a symbol of the new era of superpower cooperation. Canada, Japan, and the European Space Agency also are building components for the project.
Assembly of the space station is scheduled to begin late in 1997 and continue through 2003. Total cost is estimated at $28 billion. In addition to construction costs, the station will cost $1.3 billion a year to operate during its minimum life of 10 years.
During the debate before the vote, station supporter Rep. Tom DeLay (R) of Texas, argued that ``without the space station, there is no shuttle program. And without that, there is no NASA.''
Twice NASA has redesigned the station and overhauled management of the program to bring costs down. The latest effort, completed last year, eliminated more than 700 workers from the program, eliminated three of four program offices, and named one company, Boeing, as prime contractor. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration now has 1,600 employees on the project, while contractors have another 16,000.