The newest acquisition at the Air and Space Museum is an artist in residence. He is Frederick Eversley, 36, the California sculptor. His appointment seems appropriate for artists and the space folks have been allies from the start.

Artists vary widely, but there are certain subjects that they can't resist, nymphs, for one, or the look of light on landscape, or voyaging and speed. When horses were the fastest things around artists showed us horses. Then they as fond of boats, sails, storms and the sea. Icarus Leonardo, Audubon and O'Keefe have all been moved by flight. When our astronauts took off, all sorts of well-known artists (Robert Rausehenberg, Norman Rockwell, Merris Graves, Red Grooms) were there to see them leave.

When our space program began, artist in residence Eversley was not yet an artist. He was an aerospace engineer. That's not the only reason Eversley was chosen, but it didn't hurt.

Eversley already has made it as a sculptor. Seven years ago he was the subject of a solo show at the Whitney Museum in New York. Four artists, all well-known were considered by the Museum: Eversley, Rauschenberg, Graves and painter Richard Diebenkorn. When the others couldn't make it. Eversley was asked.

He was born and raised in Brooklyn (his grandfather still lives in Brooklyn's oldest house). In 1963, Fred Eversley graduated from Carnegie Tech as an electrical engineer. He was going to go on to be a biomedical engineer (he'd won a four-year fellowship), but instead he went to Mexico. Then he took a job.

He'd already worked for North American Aviation (on radar) and for Republic Aviation (molding metal with explosives) when he was hired by California's Wyle Laboratories as a designer of testing instruments for NASA, Apollo - and the Metroliner, too.

"Those were the go-go years," said Eversley, "and I played the market. By 1967, I'd made enough to quit." As a young mam he had loved the Greenwich Village art scene. He had acted, danced and played the five string banjo. Now he had the freedom to try his hand at art.

First he made photographs. Then he found a way to encapsulate transparencies in wireless, glowing, cubes of plastic (he used 1-inch bulbs, the electricity provided with ultrasonic radiation). Then, he says, he dropped "the gadgetry, the tricks." Eversley is best-known new for the elegant and highly polished lenses, discs, and spheres he casts of plastic. He casts them centrifugally, using liguid polyester resins and a giant salvaged truntable that was used to turn the casings of the first atom bombs.

"Much California plastic art," says Eversley, "is an extension of the flash, the gleam, of polished custom cars and hot rods - but purified to the Nth degree. But I grew up in Brooklyn. I never had a hot rod. I come out of a scientific point of view."

Eversley had made it. He is working on commissions for the new Miami airport, for a hospital in Detroit, and a new hotel in Dallas. He is working now with "crystal balls," with lasers and with sculpture made of solid nickel. The Air and Space Museum will provide him with a studio and a stipend ($15,000 for nine months) and $5,000 for materials. Eversley will spend the year there looking, learning, making art. What will his new work look like? "Frankly I don't know."

"We don't either," said Jim Dean of the museum. "But that's not the point. We want his presence in the building. We want him to talk to people, do his work, and consider flight and space craft. We want him to consider what they have done to man."