The recent report of the Augustine Committee that studied NASA and the space program has much in it that is commendable {"Panel Urges Major Shift in Space Program Goals," front page, Dec. 11}. However, it sparks some concerns lest pure science -- which, of course, no one can or should oppose -- drive the system to the extent that it neglects engineering applications of value to the public, such as the many already yielded by NASA R&D.

It was fashionable for a while to claim that two of the major contributions of the space program were Tang and the ball-point pen that writes underwater. But the most recent (1989) NASA publication, ''Spinoff,'' reveals applications developments in products for the handicapped; food; clothing; medicine; disaster warning, assistance and relief; safety on land and at sea; and pollution control. The space program has even -- and not least -- contributed to art preservation, as well as meteorology, Earth telecommunications, wind energy, expert and error-free computer software and manufacturing aids.

Deemphasizing the role of persons in space denigrates the dramatic rescue by astronauts of the scientifically valuable but ailing and falling Long Duration Exposure Facility. That achievement could not have been carried out by robots nor is the technology of robotics apt to advance sufficiently in the near future to enable an accomplishment such as this. And we've yet to produce a robot role model capable of inspiring young people to enter the fields of science and engineering, which are so critical to the future of American productivity and economic well-being.

Of course pure scientific research should be part of NASA's mission. But as we once put all our eggs in the shuttle basket, let us not put them all in the science basket and forget those for whom immediate technology applications are essential for their economic and social well-being. That role is not about to be undertaken by business and industry; it is too expensive and risky. It is properly a job for NASA as an agency that should be concerned with the urgent and pressing needs of all humankind.

LOUIS A. BRANSFORD President, Public Service Satellite Consortium Washington