The author at Hubble’s launch in 1990
Going from worst to first
In April of 1990 I was offered a job at the Space Telescope Science Institute to work on a NASA mission that would be launching just two weeks later: the Hubble Space Telescope. I was elated to be at the Kennedy Space Center to watch the Space Shuttle Discovery launch Hubble and my career along with it.
But by the summer of 1990, elation had turned into horror as Hubble was revealed to have flawed optics. At that low point, it was impossible to imagine the Hubble of 2020: a soaring icon of modern science which has inspired people all over the world. Instead, Hubble was being vilified in the news (below) and by late-night comedians. We pessimistically wondered how long the mission would last — just 18 months, according to an informal hallway poll! But the Institute was also optimistically leading the brainstorming for a Hubble fix, and the dramatic turnaround is now legendary in the history of science.
Hubble news coverage in the summer of 1990
The worst-to-first story of Hubble’s heroic restoration has been told many times before, and now 30 years later the ...