The White House is considering the appointment of a panel of experts to examine mounting troubles at NASA, a spokesman for President Bush said yesterday.

With the Hubble Space Telescope out of service and the space shuttle program grounded, the National Space Council is considering an independent inquiry into NASA as one way of rethinking the agency's future, White House spokesman Sean Walsh said.

"The Space Council has been reviewing a number of different ideas on how to keep NASA as efficient as it always had been," Walsh said.

The Space Council, led by Vice President Quayle, is a group of technical experts and White House aides who advise Bush on space policy.

A consultant to the council said yesterday the White House is not happy with the agency's direction.

"There is a crisis of confidence in NASA," said John Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University.

The White House is expected to appoint a panel of experts as early as this week. This comes on the heels of congressional demands Friday that an independent group begin examining management problems at NASA.

The White House investigation might even rethink the nation's purposes in space, Logsdon said.

The president's Space Council has long criticized what it considers NASA's lack of focus and an emphasis on high-profile projects that yield little more than adventure. The White House group advocates more emphasis on commercial prospects.

"We're not mature enough yet in the differentiation of why we're in space," Logsdon said. "There needs to be a divorcing between commercialization of space and the adventure of space."