Increased developments in science and technology are the key to the future of Utah and the nation, former NASA director James C. Fletcher said Thursday night.

Fletcher said he first made that statement 17 years ago when he left as University of Utah president to head NASA, but he believes the statement still applies today."I believed that in 1971 and I believe that now. And that has nothing to do with fusion," he said.

Fletcher spoke during the Governor's Medal for Science and Technology awards dinner Thursday in the Little America Hotel.

Fletcher said he is pleased that the Reagan and Bush administrations have emphasized and kept up funding for education, science and space technology. Such a commitment to the country's space program in particular helps to create technology spinoffs into the private sector, he said.

Navigation satellites, weather satellites and earth-resource satellites that measure such things as earthquakes, storms and minerals are "spinoffs of the investment in space that we cannot ignore," he said.

"NASA is back on track," Fletcher emphasized, adding that the last four missions flown have been the "best ever." He said NASA is the "most visible example of what American technology can do" and said the space program encourages youths to enter science and mathematics fields.

"We're quite confident at NASA about the future of space technology," he said.