THE WORD has just come out: they are going to stuff America's fallen space hero, Ham the Chimp, who died last week in North Carolina. You heard us: they have called in the taxidermists and they are going to stuff him and lend him to the International Space Hall of Fame in Alamagordo, New Mexico, where he will be on permanent display.

Talk about death without dignity. Talk about dreadful precedents--it should be enough to make any space veteran more than a little nervous about how he is going to be treated in the posthumous by and by.

Rest asssured that we're not looking for full honors at Arlington here. We know that Ham was a chimp. We certainly don't want to offend our Creationist readers--at least, not any more than we always do. But stuffing and display? The only national heroes we can think of who are stuffed and on permanent display are V. I. Lenin and Mao Tse-tung. Does this nation really want to emulate the Soviet and Chinese models? There is not one shred of evidence that Ham was a Communist. Not even Sen. Denton has suggested so far that he was, although this, of course, could change.

How about treating America's First Ape with a little respect? Bury Ham.