NASA's proposal to build a space station is "reasonable" and "a good compromise" among rival designs, but the project would be the space agency's longest, hardest and most expensive, the National Research Council said yesterday.

The council also raised many concerns about the wisdom of proceeding with the project as now envisioned. It said no one agrees on what would be best uses of a space station in the full form envisioned by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The short-term goals, which the council said meet with general agreement, would be to conduct materials research and biology experiments in weightlessness.

The NRC report said it would probably cost between $25 billion and $30 billion to build such a "Block I" space station. This is five to seven times the amount sought by physicists for the Superconducting Supercollider, the next generation of atom smasher.

NASA's plans call for adding a Block II, at further cost, to enlarge the station's facilities, but the report argued that an agreed-upon purpose should be found for the addition before a commitment.

The report noted that the space station would be in "the wrong orbit for most Earth observations, and many scientific missions in solar system exploration and astronomy cannot be effectively performed in conjunction with the space station."

The report also suggested that depending on space shuttles to launch the station's components would be risky, and it recommended that NASA develop a new kind of conventional rocket that can lift three times the shuttle's payload.

The 61-page report was prepared by a committee of the council, working arm of the National Academy of Sciences, at the request of the White House, the National Security Council and NASA. Committee chairman was Robert C. Seamans Jr., a former deputy NASA administrator now at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The report also questioned NASA's ability to manage a project of such scope and recommended various fundamental changes in the agency's management structure.

NASA spokesman Mark Hess said the agency "agrees with most of the findings and recommendations" but challenged cost figures and questioned whether the project would be as "risky" as the council claimed.

The report emphasized that, if a commitment is made to build a space station, the program "will absorb much of NASA's energies for the next two to three decades" and that the project "must have enduring stable support across {presidential} administrations."

"The space station cannot be considered a 'one administration' program, nor can it be developed 'on the cheap,' " the report said.