Investigation of comet probe isn't complete

The Sun's article "Design flaw blamed in Contour breakup" (Feb. 13) was based on an Associated Press report that incorrectly identified Comet Nucleus Tour (Contour) spacecraft design as the leading cause for the spacecraft's failure on Aug. 15.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory - which designed and built the Contour and managed the comet-study mission for NASA - has worked very closely with the NASA Mishap Investigation Board over the past six months.

The results of our internal investigation, concluded in October, were communicated to NASA at that time. The NASA board has yet to reach a definitive conclusion and continues to examine potential causes other than the spacecraft design issues cited in the article - among them, the performance of Contour's solid rocket motor, the structural interaction between the spacecraft and the rocket motor and the effects of rocket-plume heating on the spacecraft.

The NASA board assures us it is still performing analyses and is beginning to compile its findings. But until NASA releases its report, it would be premature to pinpoint a specific cause of the Contour anomaly or to discuss the results of our internal investigation.

Stamatios M. Krimigis


The writer is the head of the Space Department at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory.

Is governor seeking a higher office?

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s refusal to consider raising taxes to cover the state's $1.8 billion projected budget shortfall is disconcerting to me. Could the governor be positioning himself for a run for president in 2008?

Few people are likely to remember the harm done to the state's economy or its citizens from cutting essential services to balance the budget. Or the problems incurred by our counties when their funds were reduced, or our universities when their subsidies were cut or the other services reduced or eliminated.

But being able to point to his refusal to raise taxes would go over well with much of the electorate, especially the voters at the GOP's 2008 nominating convention.

Sidney S. Lewis


Misguided moralism drives slots critics

The Sun's editorial "Lessons from Las Vegas" (Feb. 14) overlooks the obvious: Is it really in the interest of Nevada's governor to promote gambling elsewhere? Rather, isn't he really saying: "Don't start gambling in your state. Come to Las Vegas instead."

The editorial also implies that gambling revenue is not a financial panacea, but need it be? Each dollar collected from voluntary gambling is one less dollar that need be taken by involuntary taxation.

And why do The Sun and other misguided moralists take a stand against slots when the lottery, Keno, horse and slots in adjoining states are easy gambling alternatives?

And the bigger question is, why does big government ("Big Brother") feel it has the right to determine how citizens spend their money?

Don Imwold


Taking patronage to a new low

During the gubernatorial campaign, candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. promised to change the culture in Annapolis. Dan Rodricks' recent column about Mr. Ehrlich's creation of a job paying $92,000 annually for Clarence M. Mitchell IV ("A big payday for Mitchell shows Ehrlich is all heart," Feb. 14) and other articles in The Sun concerning Mr. Ehrlich's appointments indicate that Mr. Ehrlich has kept this promise.

He has lowered the culture of political patronage to a level to which the previous administrations never descended.

James M. Kehl


A chance for Mitchell to live up to legacy

Am I the only man in Maryland who thinks that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has done a good thing by giving Clarence M. Mitchell IV another chance ("Fire Mitchell," editorial, Feb. 16)?

Mr. Mitchell will be watched very closely in his new role. The proper thing to do is to hope he behaves in the tradition of his grandfather, grandmother and grand-uncle.

I hope Mr. Mitchell lives up to the noble traditions of his family name.

Dennis Olver


Activists explore peaceful options

Thank you for the excellent coverage The Sun gave to the worldwide peace rallies and marches ("Millions march for peace," Feb 16) and especially for the write-up and photographs of the local gathering at St. Vincent DePaul Church ("Baltimore marchers call for peace," Feb. 16).

Let no one mistake this outpouring of anti-war sentiment as support for Saddam Hussein, as Mr. Hussein apparently wishes people to do. Advocates for peace in this country consider themselves true patriots and believe freedom of expression and assembly and the right to petition our government are sacred American values.

Peace activists throughout the world wish only to convince the U.S. government, through peaceful protest, that there are other means of containing the danger presented by Mr. Hussein and whatever arsenal he possesses.

War is not the answer.

Sylvia J. Eastman


Appeasement of evil leads only to tragedy

Are anti-war advocates the only ones who want peace? How arrogant. Nearly everyone wants peace. The debate is over how to get there.

Older Americans and Europeans recall the same debate in the 1930s, when anti-war advocates had their way. The result: A madman grew emboldened and engulfed us in an unnecessary war.

Anti-war advocates had their way during the Vietnam era, and the horror of mass Marxist slaughter and the drowning of the fleeing boat people ensued.

Evil cannot be appeased. It has to be dealt with, as unpleasant or disruptive to our comfort as that may be.

Charles Clough

Bel Air

Nature offers Bush a cooling-off period?

Perhaps our snowstorm was Mother Nature's way to cool the hotheads in the White House.

Robert L. Reynolds

Bel Air

Snowstorm coverage went way overboard

Maybe I'm in the minority on this, but did we really need our local news stations to do 24-hour, nonstop coverage of snow falling ("Blanket snow coverage by news crews becomes mostly background noise," Feb. 18)?

I understand just how exciting it is to see what 38 different intersections look like when it snows and that radar shows snow is falling and that people are outside in the snow.

But how many cars need to be shown stuck on the side of the road? And how many plows do I need to see on TV to know what's going on?

Samuel Hershey


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