President Reagan made a fleeting appearance last night at the Air and Space Museum for a movie premiere, determined to demonstrate that it's business-as-usual on the home front.

"The president is keeping a very full schedule as well as monitoring the situation hour by hour," said Karna Small, spokeswoman for the National Security Council.

The TWA hijacking was never mentioned. In fact, the president never even spoke, slipping in and out for "The Dream Is Alive," a 37-minute space film shot from the vantage point of a moving shuttle.

"Well, he did tell me that now he didn't have to go up in a shuttle because he had seen the movie," said astronaut Bob Crippen, who sat next to Reagan at the president's request.

"Mrs. Reagan liked it, too," he said, providing the only scrap of news from the Reagans' 38-minute trip.

Thirteen hundred guests were invited to the museumto view the movie in three shifts last night. National security adviser Robert McFarlane, who has been coordinating the hostage crisis from the White House, did not show up. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger did, but he ran out after the show ended, without commenting. But others did.

"I don't know what other alternatives there are out there," said Rep. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.), when asked if he supported the administration's handling of the crisis. "All you can do is sit it out."

"It's a very difficult call," said Malaysian Ambassador Sip Hon Lew. "Once you give in to terrorists, the danger is you don't know when to end it."

"How do you deal with people who have no regard for human life?" asked Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah).

Said Small of ABC's exclusive interview on the Beruit tarmac with TWA Flight 847 crew members: "It was good to see that they the pilots were in good health. I'm sure that was reassuring to their families."

"The Dream Is Alive" is a new $3.6 million space odyssey filmed by astronauts on three different trips. The National Air and Space Museum and Lockheed Corp. underwrote the budget.

Narrated by Walter Cronkite, the film includes breathtaking footage of the Earth, space walks, and an interesting view of life within a capsule. For practical purposes, the film makes an excellent case for continuing funding for the space program.

Flight director John Cox, who appears in the film, said he was pleased the president attended the opening. "That's a good sign for NASA," he said.

Director and producer Graeme Ferguson said he spent 10 months training the three crew members to operate the high-tech photography equipment. "We tried to train them to think like a filmmaker," he said. "I like to take the credit but it's not true."

Garn, who became the first civilian nonscientist to fly in a shuttle last April, seemed to be getting a little nostalgic.

"I told my wife I was feeling the same pull, the same physical sensation in there, as I did in the shuttle," he said later. "There's no way to describe the feeling. It was the most incredible experience of my life. I'm going to be bored the rest of my life."

The others weren't quite as effusive, but enthusiastic, nonetheless.

Said Crippen: "This is about as close as you can get to putting your nose to the window" of the shuttle.

"I learned an incredible amount about filmmaking," added astronaut "Big" Jon McBride. "I used to think an f-stop was a bus stop."

The guests in the lobby mingled and sipped under the Apollo shuttle, where hearty American food was spread out buffet-style. Bird-of-paradise flowers swayed above a mossy pool with five live goldfish.

Rocklike blue and white ice sculptures and silver lobsters suggested space and the frozen planets. Guests selected lobster, crab, oysters and clams and made themselves ice cream sundaes from the cold buffet laid out on silvery tablecloths.

The caterers, Lansdowne Catering Ltd., were thoughtful enough to provide a detailed press release.

"The feeling would be of hushed coldness, reflected in a color scheme of silver over cerulean blue," it said. The other buffet was described as "a dream of a warm planet like Earth -- its lushness and vitality -- the living planet."

In real terms this meant: chili, ham, shrimp and ice cream sundaes.

A turn-of-the-century postcard tells the tale: A man is dozing off, his head resting in a woman's lap. "They Put Me to Sleep in Clear Spring, Md.," the caption reads.

Folks elsewhere might take offense at having fun poked at the somnolent character of their villages. But here in Clear Spring, a one-light, Washington County town nestled at the foot of Fairview Mountain, they're downright proud of it.

"Clear Spring is a very quiet place," conducive to longevity, said town clerk Nancy Keefer, whose father-in-law lived here to the age of 100.

"We're a very quiet little town," agreed Evelyn Stevens, a post office clerk who has lived here for 21 years. "There is very little confusion, thank goodness. It's just a nice quiet community, a good place to live."

The town of 476 has no police force. One of the three Town Council members, a retired plumber, fixes breaks in the water pipes, while another repairs streets, both without pay. There's no industry to speak of. Hagerstown, 12 miles east, has the jobs.

The main drag, Cumberland Street, dips down into what is known as "the hollow," where there are about two dozen parking meters (5 cents an hour, with a two-hour maximum) and a half-dozen stores.

There are two groceries, a couple of taverns and liquor stores, a hardware store, bank, post office and gun shop. The West End Garage and Feed store anchors one side of town, Thompson's Garage the other.

The main tourist attraction is a spring from which the town derives its name. It is no longer fit for drinking.

Nearly all the signs in town point the visitor elsewhere -- to Colonial Fort Frederick a few miles to the south, to the Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area a few miles north.

For a long time, Clear Spring had its share of traffic, because Cumberland Street is also U.S. Rte. 40, which was the major east-west highway in the days before Interstate 70 was built. Clear Spring, established in the 1820s, was a bustling stage stop on the National Pike, an early route for the westward bound.

"It is said that the road leading to Clear Spring was often jammed with horses, wagons and stagecoaches bound for the West," the Clear Spring Alumni Association wrote in a history of the town. "The road was often lined up for many miles with traffic . . . . "

In its heyday, the town had "15 carpenters, nine shoemakers, six tailors, four masons, three cabinet makers, three saddlers, two tanners, one clergyman, one barber and one butcher," the association quoted an earlier historian as saying.

The town peaked in the 19th century, but then the railroad began to siphon travelers from the National Pike, and industry grew elsewhere. The population, which had once reached 1,000, dropped to 300 as residents moved to other towns.

Still, at its height, the town boasted as many as seven hotels. Drovers stayed in some; passengers, including notables such as Henry Clay, stayed in others. Most of the old hotels still stand, but they are being used as housing buildings for permanent residents.

Native Linda Lee, 39, lives in a portion of the former Overbrook Hotel, next to the spring. She was around in 1953, during one of several major floods that have hit the town over the years.

In 1953, "the run . . . it's rerouted now," she said. "It'll never overflow again, they say. But it was deep here in the hollow . . . .

"It's quiet around here, not much going on," she said. "If a tractor-trailer stops, everybody gets excited. Or if there's a fender-bender, that draws everybody out of the house."

Her friend, Bruce Blair, 53, said he'd never forget when a truck drove into a house on the main street, or when Corbett's chicken house burned down, when he was about 14.

In Clear Spring, town clerk Keefer said, "the biggest issue is parking meters. Nobody wants them. I'd say we get more complaints on that than anything." Meters aside, controversy seems to exist mainly on the periphery:

There is the proposed ski resort, on Two Top Mountain just over the Mason-Dixon line in Pennsylvania. The way to it is through town and up Blair's Valley Road, which created some concern about traffic. But the whole thing is sort of on hold, Clear Springers say.

They are more concerned about a Maryland agency's desire to acquire property for a future coal-fired power plant in Pinesburg, four miles southeast.

"Help Stop the Power Plant" signs are all over, including the bulletin board in front of the Clear Spring Town Hall. Gov. Harry Hughes said this week, however, that the state may abandon its plans.

A mile east on Rte. 40 is Donald (Tommy) Thompson's Memorial Antique Auto Museum. Thompson keeps 96 vehicles in an oblong cinder-block building he hopes to expand.

A stocky man of 52, Thompson is sort of a one-man conglomerate, the closest thing the town has to a corporate institution. He owns Thompson's Towing Service, Thompson's Garage, Thompson's Auto Sales, Thompson's Ambulance Service, Thompson's School Bus Service, and Thompson's Funeral Home.

Thompson buried the town barber a few months back.

"We don't have any barber now," Thompson said. "The only barber around here now is me. When you have to get on the table here, I do the barber work."

There used to be a library in Clear Spring, also a movie theater, but both are gone. Carl Brown's luncheonette is now a rented residence.

The firemen's carnival in August and the high school band boosters parade in May are the only major community events. Thompson furnished 30 vehicles for dignitaries and others to ride in the parade, which lasts about 20 minutes, according to Linda Lee. No, it lasted about an hour, said her friend, Bruce Blair.

Growth is not an issue here, and there is no gentrification. There is no movement to declare the town a historic district; the restrictions on property rights that such designations bring would not sit well here, local preservationists say.

"Some of the people who live in historic houses don't know it, don't care or could care less," said Hilda Cushwa, who describes herself as "a Clear Springer from way back when. . . ."

Yet there is a mini-revival of sorts tied to the past: Town Council member Carl J. Brown, the former restaurateur, is restoring an old log house he plans to turn into private museum. It's one of 18 structures in town with logs that have been covered with clapboard.

And up by the new middle school, there's the Warner-Nesbitt house, also in the process of being restored for use as a community building. The home was built in 1807 by Otho Nesbitt, from whose land the town was carved. Today, his great-great-great-great niece, Lillie Davenport, still lives nearby.

"I don't think anything very significant has happened here," said Davenport, 39. "I guess that's why I like it. It's just a quiet town."