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'Needed: a Space Policy'

September 02, 1988

As a citizen, working engineer, and space enthusiast, I highly applaud your endorsement of a space policy. Ever since the demise of the Apollo moon program and our first space station Skylab, America has been floundering without leadership, direction and long-term goals. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, has proceeded to slowly accomplish its long-terms goals of a permanent manned presence in space (now a reality nearly 10 years before we have planned to accomplish this feat), and a manned mission to Mars.

America needs awe-inspiring goals to help keep the national moral at a high level, to help inspire the nation's children into careers in engineering, science or medicine, and to help us remain in the forefront of science and technology development. If we do not pursue long-term goals such as a space station, a return to the moon, or manned Mars exploration, we will take a back seat to not only the Soviet Union, but also to Europe, Japan and China as they forge ahead with their goals and plans for space exploration.

It is interesting to note that even with our space shuttle, America finds itself in nearly the same position as it was in the first 10 years of its space program (from 1957 to 1967) where it suffered when compared to the Soviet effort, due to an inability to place heavy payloads into orbit. It wasn't until the launch of the Saturn V moon rocket that we were able to out-lift our Soviet counterparts, and in doing so won the race to the moon. With the recent launch of the Energia the Soviet Union now has demonstrated the ability to loft heavy payloads into orbit equaling that of our defunct Saturn V rocket and over four times the current restricted payload capacity of our present space shuttle.

With the facts of the Soviet booster in mind, the proposal by NASA for the Shuttle C makes very good sense.

Even with such a vehicle, the use of improved expendable launch vehicles, and our present space shuttle fleet, we cannot simply return as the leaders in space exploration without a clear long-term space policy that will outlast four-year administrations. A long-term space policy is overdue, necessary and essential to a growing, and free America.

KEVIN COUSINEAU

Tehachapi

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