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President wants to keep space station

President Clinton pushed the budget-conscious Congress to go forward with two of the most expensive and controversial science projects ever, a space station for research in zero-gravity and a particle accelerator for fundamental knowledge about matter and energy.

"I think it would be a mistake, after all the work we have done, to scrap the space station," Clinton told a White House news conference Thursday.

"We need to stay first in science and technology" to remain competitive in the global economy, the president said. He added that while he wanted to continue the project, "we're going to have to make some very tough management decisions at NASA to get that done."

For the space station, Clinton wants to spend $10.5-billion over five years and costs would reach $16.5-billion by 2001. Clinton in a statement described the space station as a "reduced cost" scaled-down version of a project that officials said could put four astronauts in orbit soon after the turn of the century.

The scaled-down plan Clinton signed off on would save $8- to $9-billion by the year 2000 and $18-billion over the life of the project, if approved by Congress, said the White House.

For the superconducting supercollider, being built in Texas, the costs have been estimated at $8.25-billion but are expected to rise to $10-billion.

"These are tough economic times, yet our administration supports this project as part of its broad investment package in science and technology," Clinton said of the supercollider in a letter to Congress.

"Abandoning the SSC at this point would signal that the United States is compromising its position of leadership in basic science _ a position unquestioned for generations," the president wrote.

The supercollider is being built about 30 miles south of Dallas. It consists of magnets that will steer and focus beams of protons moving in opposite directions until they collide at nearly the speed of light. Two large detectors will record the collisions for analysis by physicists.