Bush, Dukakis on space

While members of the United States space community have visions of cosmic destiny, their eyes right now are fixed firmly on Earth - specifically, on the presidential campaign. George Bush and the Republican platform call for space station deployment, a diversified rocket fleet, and a rejuvenated shuttle system. They endorse the aerospace plane, which aims to provide relatively cheap and versatile access to Earth orbit. They also favor planetary exploration, a manned mission to Mars early next century, and a moon base. They support the Mission to Planet Earth program of study of the planet's environment using Earth satellites.

The Democratic platform is vague about its space commitment. Early in his campaign, Michael Dukakis expressed reservations about the space station. He has since changed his mind.

Now Mr. Dukakis calls the station ``one of our top priorities.'' He says he will reestablish the Cabinet-level National Space Council with the vice-president as chairman. President Reagan replaced this policy-shaping body with a multi-agency committee.

Recent polls suggest that as much as three quarters of the US public think the country's space spending either is about right or should be cut back. There is little present support for increasing the space budget. Thus, the next president has a big selling job to do if he is to get public - and hence congressional - backing for a strong space program.

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