The Times editorial suggestion (July 9), "White Elephant," that the space shuttle launch complex at Vandenberg Air Force Base be abandoned ignores several important points:
--The facility has already been built. With the exception of one item involving exhaust vents, all questions regarding safety at the new Western spaceport have been satisfactorily answered. Air Force engineers say they will propose a solution to the vent problem shortly. It would be folly to walk away from a $3-billion investment on the basis of one, soon-to-be resolved, question.
--The West Coast launch site is needed. As The Times correctly noted, Vandenberg is the only place from which rockets--manned or unmanned--can be launched into polar orbit. Rockets launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida fly over only a portion of the globe. Full global coverage, necessary for national security, as well as dozens of other tasks, can only be achieved from Vandenberg. If we are committed to a manned space program--and I believe we are, for a number of scientific, medical and national defense reasons--it would be fool-hardy to deny ourselves manned access to this vital region of near-earth space.
--Vandenberg serves an important backup function. If there was one thing made clear in the aftermath of the Challenger tragedy, it was again the folly of relying upon any single system or facility for access to space. If something were to happen to the Kennedy spaceport--an explosion on the pad, for example--we would be left with no launch facilities for our shuttle fleet.