A top-level review of the nation's space program recommended Monday that space shuttle flights be confined only to those that require human involvement and that the proposed space station be redesigned from top to bottom.
A committee of experts said some of the concerns expressed about the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are "deserved and occasionally even self-inflicted."Their report was released after Vice President Dan Quayle and NASA administrator Richard Truly were briefed on its contents.
NASA has received heavy criticism this year, particularly after shuttles were grounded for five months by leaks and by the inability of the $1.5 billion Hubble Space Telescope to see the universe as sharply as advertised.
The committee was asked whether some new form of management structure was called for, but it said "changes of such sweeping scope are inappropriate."
"In spite of imperfections, by far the greatest body of space expertise in any single organization in the world resides within NASA," the report said.
The committee recommended that the priorities of the space program be shifted to place primary emphasis on science. It also recommended that the space station be redesigned to lessen complexity and reduce cost - "taking whatever time may be required to do this thoroughly and innovatively."
The first construction flight for the station has been scheduled for 1995, but Congress has balked at the cost of the station and ordered NASA to cut back.
Landing tonight may avoid rain
NASA said it is bringing space shuttle Columbia home from its star-crossed astronomy mission Monday night, a day early, to avoid rain at the landing site.
The mission earlier had been threatened by a clogged waste water line, but the astronauts found a way to live with the problem Sunday. Weather proved to be the determining factor, though, and shuttle managers decided late Monday morning they would not risk waiting until Tuesday to bring Columbia back.
After receiving the news, the seven astronauts quickly began preparing for a 9:51 p.m. PST landing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
The forecast Tuesday at Edwards held the possibility of rain, while Monday's forecast was more favorable.
"You've all had a fantastic mission, but all good things have got to come to an end and you're coming home tonight," Mission Control's Story Musgrave told the crew.