It doesn't matter that the size of the Hubble Space Telescope's mirror defect is less than 4 percent the diameter of a human hair. For those determined to spot evidence of a debilitating general decline in U.S. scientific leadership and technological know-how, that's more than enough.

Indeed, the distortion troubling the scope has been seized upon by the media, to create another kind of distortion--that of the public's perceptions and attitudes toward NASA in particular and toward Big Science in general.

  • In the Washington Post (July 3, 1990): The telescope, "crippled by a mysteriously misshapen mirror, took its place on the list of great technological fiascoes."

  • In the Wall Street Journal (July 9, 1990): "The space agency hyped Hubble's promise. . .signed up scientists to act as lobbyists, divvied up jobs among a number of NASA centers that don't work well together, and underestimated the project's costs."

  • And on ABC's...

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