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'Another Shuttle? Not Now'

August 20, 1986

I was dismayed to read your editorial. While reasonable people can disagree as to whether we should build another shuttle or return to expendable boosters, the tone of your editorial was a call for an overall reduction in America's space program. Space has become too important for us to retreat from it, not only for national security but also for scientific investigation and commercial activity.

A good case has now been made for launching satellites on rockets as it is a cheaper and less risky way to loft them into orbit. However, satellites continue to be extremely expensive themselves since they have to be built on the ground to withstand the forces of the launch with no chance to repair them in space.

Some of our most successful past shuttle launches were primarily missions to fix satellites in orbit. It should be obvious that the primary purpose of any space station we build should be to receive just-launched satellites for the purpose of preventive maintenance. Having a space "service station" would dramatically lower both the construction and insurance costs on satellites.

A space station is also needed to improve our scientific work in space. Currently we conceive of our experiments on the ground, send up a satellite to perform the experiments, and then try to figure out what new experiments we need based on the limited information we got from the first satellite. Much better and quicker results will be obtained when we put scientists in orbit in a laboratory where the experiments can be generated on the spot.

DAVID PLEGER

Long Beach

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