Democratic Ticket Supports Manned Space Station
HOUSTON (AP) _ Vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen used a visit to the Johnson Space Flight Center Monday to announce the Democratic ticket will support building a permanent manned space station.
The Texas senator, long a supporter of the space program, said presidential nominee Michael Dukakis now endorses the permanent station, and ″that nails it down.″
Dukakis, the Massachusetts governor, issued his endorsement in Shrewsbury, Mass., and said he would pay for the station by cutting some weapons programs and requiring tighter Defense Department management.
A Dukakis-Bentsen administration ″ will support an all-out effort to restore American leadership in exploring the universe,″ Bentsen said in a speech to the Houston Chamber of Commerce.
Although President Reagan is a long-time supporter of the space station, Bentsen said the administration has mismanaged the space effort. If Dukakis is elected president, Bentsen said, he as vice president would be put in charge of a reconstituted Cabinet-level space council.
Lyndon Johnson headed the space council when he was vice president. But the board was later abolished by President Nixon, and Reagan has killed recent efforts in Congress to put it back in operation, Bentsen said.
Dukakis’s previous silence on the question of the space station has created worries in states with large National Aeronautics and Space Administration installations, including Texas. Although Congress has authorized $902 million for starting the project next year, the next president will have the option of withholding $515 million of that, NASA officials said.
Dukakis’s statement ″makes you breathe a little easier,″ said John Trebes, manager of the space station mockup at the Johnson center. ″Now, we’re on our tippytoes, worrying if we’ll be around next year.″
Bentsen, following his speech to the Chamber of Commerce luncheon, denied Dukakis’s announcement represents a conversion.
″I think he was wise to have insisted on counsel ... before making any decision,″ Bentsen told reporters, adding that he was one of those consulted by the presidential nominee.
Rep. Mike Andrews, D-Texas, who accompanied Bentsen in Houston, called Dukakis’s decision ″an extremeley important announcement″ for the campaign in some hotly contested states that have space facilities. ″It’ll help him in Florida, California, Alabama, Texas and Ohio,″ Andrews said.
Although Reagan has been supportive, he said, ″the president didn’t mention it in his last State of the Union address. I think it’s a huge issue.″
Before making his speech, Bentsen climbed into a Space Shuttle mockup at the space center and chatted with Navy Cmdr. Robert (Hoot) Gibson, a Shuttle pilot. Bentsen sat in the command seat and compared the controls with those he used as a B-24 pilot during World War II.
″I can look at a lot of things and have a great deal of familiarity,″ he said. ″Some of the instruments aren’t that far apart″ from those in older aircraft, he said.
Bentsen visited the space center during a nine-day campaign swing that will be spent almost entirely in his home state, where he is running both for the vice presidency and for re-election to his Senate seat. Dukakis is scheduled to join Bentsen at the end of the week for campaign stops and a visit to the LBJ Ranch.
Bentsen made a quick trip to Little Rock, Ark., Monday afternoon for a rally with his Senate colleagues from that neighboring state, Dale Bumpers and David Pryor.
About 400 supporters cheered them on in a blazing-hot office building courtyard, as they praised the Dukakis-Bentsen ticket and blasted the Republicans convening in New Orleans.
″I have never seen a crowd so out of touch with reality,″ Bentsen, his shirt soaked with sweat, told the crowd.
Bentsen said Little Rock had lost 3,700 manufacturing jobs during the Reagan administration. ″And they’re trying to tell you it’s never been better,″ he said.
″I think we may be playing for all the marbles this time,″ he said.
Bentsen then headed back to Texas for appearances Tuesday in Beaumont and Fort Worth.