It is with a sense of tremendous irony that I read the article on the progress in space being made by the Soviet Union, which appeared on the 18th anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon {July 20}. It is also ironic that, 18 years later, trimmed budgets and bureaucratic stupidity have left the United States without easy access to even low Earth orbit, much less orbit of the other planets.

While the Soviets have steadily improved the capabilities of their space stations over the past few years, NASA has struggled to get funding for a single station now half the size of its original design. The Air Force's budget just for space-related research and development is greater than NASA's entire budget.

It is only by following the guidelines laid out by the National Commission on Space that America can assure itself of a future in the changing technologies of the years ahead in this century and the next. Not a single administration since that outstanding moment when John F. Kennedy committed this nation to the Apollo proj-ju ect has had the courage to make long-range plans and fund them to completion.

Industrial opportunities, natural resources and untold scientific discoveries all lie beyond our atmosphere, but where will the pioneers for this space frontier be found?

LAURA THOMPSON Alexandria

edtext Let's hear it for Kathy Sawyer. Once again, using distinctly professional journalism, she reports the facts about space.

Bold action and clear direction are indeed quickly making the Soviets the leading pioneers of space. Using evolution, not revolution, they continue to press forward with their space agenda, which is to advance Soviet doctrine and establish the U.S.S.R. as the dominant presence in space -- an agenda they appear to have achieved and will not likely relinquish easily.

The Soviet government has achieved this preeminent space status because its political system is geared to running big government projects -- in fact, the entire political system is one big government project.

Our big government projects, on the other hand, never seem to work very well. They quickly become immersed in politics and costly bureaucracy. Perhaps this is because our system of government is just not set up to handle long-term projects effectively; it is set up to serve the people, not the state.

Like the Soviets, we desperately need a clear long-range purpose for our space program. But it should be in concert with our basic national values. Instead of a government-run space program like the Soviets', maybe we should have a government-ju supported space program that is based on developing the individual and economic freedoms which are part of our basic American heritage.

Let's learn from the Soviets' example in space, but let's not imitate their management style. STEVE HOESER Burke