Think You Can Ignore Context? Hubble’s Flawed Mirror Might Wake You Up

Hubble Space Telescope—April 23, 1990

It was late in the evening at the Kennedy Space Center. A TV camera technician was taping a large cable onto my leg. I had just returned from a final look at the Hubble Space Telescope in the Space Shuttle’s cargo bay. It was an awesome sight—the gleaming telescope surrounded by the shiny cargo bay doors of the Space Shuttle. After 15 years, $1.7 billion, and the hard work of thousands of people, the time had come. Tomorrow morning, Hubble would launch into space.
I was the featured guest on “Nightline,” the nationally televised news show with Ted Koppel. Not being much of a TV watcher, I had never seen the program. The local producer had me stare into glaring lights for more than 30 minutes before the show. I suppose that tired, unnerved (and scared) people made good late-night television guests. They promised that questions would be polite and easy. They were neither. After all the usual stuff about whether NASA money would be better spent on social programs, I was asked the big one, “Will it work?” I expressed strong confidence in our team, talked about the thoroughness of the test program. and said squarely, “It will!”
Actually, I had my doubts, but that was the only rational response. If difficult times were to come, I needed my Hubble team to see me as confident and fully behind them. They deserved this kind of support. Moreover, there ...

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