A senator expressed concern Friday that NASA might be planning to build a multibillion dollar rocket with money that had been expected to be spent on scientific projects.
Sen. Albert Gore, D-Tenn., complained that what had been viewed as a $2 billion to $4 billion rocket-building effort might turn out to cost $10 billion to $12 billion at the expense of space science.A blue-ribbon panel on the future of America's space effort, headed by Norman Augustine, recommended late last year that NASA forgo building another space shuttle and instead put the money into a new rocket. A new shuttle costs $2 billion.
NASA administrator Richard Truly told Gore at a hearing on Friday that the unmanned vehicle had been discussed at a meeting of the National Space Council earlier in the week attended by Vice President Quayle, White House Budget Director Richard Darman and a Defense Department representative.
The Bush administration's current budget proposal asks $175 million each for NASA and the Defense Department to get started on the rocket project.
"The general approach was to fight hard for the funds," Truly said. The initial money would go toward developing the first new rocket engine in 20 years and a decision would be made in late 1993 on a schedule for the vehicle.
Truly said that Quayle, who heads the space council, told the space and defense representatives at the meeting to do a little more research on what the rocket development would cost and how long it would take.
Gore replied it had been assumed that the committee was thinking of the new rocket in more modest terms and that it would be ready well before 1999 to help in assembling a space station.
"What the space council is insisting upon is an $11 billion vehicle that is not likely to be available until well into the next decade," Gore said.
Adding an extra $1 billion to the space budget each year, he said, would take money from science proj-ects, which the Augustine Committee said should have the highest priority.
"What we are headed toward is de facto rejection of the Augustine Committee recommendations," Gore said.