Congress is allowing NASA to proceed with its manned space station for the time being, but spiraling costs also are prompting lawmakers to look at alternatives to what one critic calls an "orbiting boondoggle."

The House, by a 361-36 vote Thursday, authorized the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to spend $14.9 billion next year, including President Bush's request for $2 billion for the space station.But with new estimates that the cost of NASA's premier project will exceed $100 billion, lawmakers rejected Bush's plea to continue construction of it into 1994 without first coming back to Congress.

They also directed the National Academy of Sciences to look into alternatives to the space station for conducting life-science and microgravity research scheduled aboard it.

"If you have doubts about the space station, this will determine once and for all if there is a cheaper and better way to accomplish the space station's mission," said freshman Rep. Dick Zimmer, R-N.J.