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SPACE-STATION DEFENDERS REPEL ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO KILL FUNDING

Defenders of NASA's space station program on Thursday beat back another attempt to kill funding for it but failed in efforts to increase overall spending on the space agency.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration budget of $13.5 billion is contained in a science, research and technology bill being considered by Congress.An amendment to kill the space station program, offered by Rep. Tim Roemer, D-Ind., was voted down 289-121, with Republicans and Democrats joining forces to defeat it.

A second Roemer amendment aimed at trimming at least $75 million from space station funding was also defeated by a vote of 269-149.

The votes marked the 11th time that Roemer or other budget-balancing hawks have tried to kill the program, which receives about $2.1 billion a year in development funding. Roemer said he would keep trying, because "it doesn't make sense to keep wasting the taxpayers' money" on a program that he insists has turned into a boondoggle.

Citing recent articles in scientific magazines, Roemer said there is no evidence that any large companies are interested in medical research or manufacturing in space, which has been cited as a primary reason for building a space station.

"We're not going to do anything at NASA before long, if the space station continues to gobble up these monies," Roemer continued.

Space station defenders, however, countered that the program is on track and said the station, when it is finally built with the support of an international consortium, will help produce cures for cancer and other diseases.

"If we eliminate the space station, we eliminate the vision for America," said Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas. "Of all the money we spend in government, research is the most important thing to do."

Stockman and other supporters complain that attempts to kill the project have turned into an annual rite of spring.

But opponents insist that its price tag - an estimated $17.1 billion - is simply too high when compared to other programs that are being cut.