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Proper Funding Would Make Spaceflight Safe

September 25, 2003

Re "Columbia Report Places NASA's Future Up in the Air," Sept. 21:

Ralph Vartabedian reports the prevailing view that Congress has persistently underfunded NASA in general and the manned spaceflight program in particular. Congressional leaders continue to maintain that taxpayers cannot afford the expense of a properly funded space program.

Let's get one thing straight: This is not a budget issue. If we can waste $87 billion in Iraq without blinking, we can certainly "afford" to spend three or four times the $6 billion we spend on the manned spaceflight program. If we spent more money on space, we could do spaceflight safely.

Joseph Bonino

Glendale

*

Your Sept. 21 editorial on robotic space exploration, while harping on the benefits of robots in space, fails to mention their drawbacks.

Robots cannot explore on a hunch; astronauts can, as was proven on the Apollo landings. Robots also cannot recover, repair and relaunch satellites, as space-walking astronauts have done with the Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions, as well as several others.

Although robots have their uses and are meant to go places it is impossible to send humans, such as Jupiter and the outer planets, your editorial does a disservice to the astronaut corps, the young people who wish to be astronauts and the Columbia crew and their families. The crew volunteered for the space program knowing the risks inherent in the profession, and the families, who accepted those risks, informed the president and Congress that they wished the manned space program to continue.

NASA should finish the international space station and take the next great adventure: Mars. Where robots go, human explorers will follow. Your editorial, in its Luddite thinking, seems to forget that.

Matt Wiser

Auberry, Calif.

*

Re "Stalwart Galileo Is Vaporized Near Jupiter," Sept. 22: The Galileo spacecraft ended its long and productive life when it plunged into Jupiter. Please rise and join me in a standing, cheering ovation for the men and women of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Dedication, imagination and engineering skill sustained over 20 years have put them into the ranks of Galileo, Columbus and Lewis and Clark. They lift our hearts and hopes in a time of trouble here in California and around the world.

C. Terry Dooley

Sherman Oaks

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