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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

And another thing …

The Spokesman-Review

You just can’t get good help. Last week, after a seven-year voyage from Earth, the space probe Huygens reached its destination on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, and carried out its scientific mission almost flawlessly.

But to David Atkinson, “almost” was the difference between joyous celebration and crushing disappointment. The University of Idaho professor of computer science and electrical engineering was in charge of an experiment to measure the powerful winds on Titan while the Huygens floated 780 miles from orbit to the lunar surface.

Unfortunately, when it was time for the computer to activate Atkinson’s instrument, it didn’t happen. Someone at the European Space Agency forgot to include that command.

Hundreds of millions of miles from the nearest human, human error ruined 18 years of Atkinson’s work. And Washington elections officials think they have computer problems.

No longer divorced from reality. “I don’t think one interview is a turning point in his presidency,” said U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., in an attempt to spin the news that President Bush would not be pressing for a constitutional amendment to bar gay marriage.

We hope it is a turning point, because a battle over gay marriage would further divide the country and divert attention from more pressing matters.

Yes, the president made the amendment a campaign issue and, yes, the arguments he uses now for backing off were true back then. Social conservatives can’t be blamed for feeling a bit snookered. But the important point is that the president arrived at a decision that is grounded in reality. There is no evidence such an amendment would attract the 67 votes needed in the U.S. Senate.

We disagree with the president on the need for such an amendment but are grateful that he views the political landscape on this issue clearly.