It's likely that no other modern-day scientific instrument has stirred as many passions as the Hubble Space Telescope, which marks the 25th anniversary of its launch into orbit on April 24.It brought us bitter disappointment one minute and thrills the next. It has provoked sorrow and wonder, devotion and outrage. At one point, it was a national disgrace. Now it's a national treasure, with the kind of name recognition usually enjoyed only by pop stars and presidents.
If Hubble's story were a movie, it would be pure melodrama, from the humiliating news of its defective vision to the triumphant repair by spacewalking astronauts. Its peerless abilities provoke pride in American ingenuity, its snapshots an almost spiritual awe.