Commentary: The Hubble Telescope's Biggest Problem: More Distortion Than Meets The Eye

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

Eugene Garfield
Aug 19, 1990

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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