Spinning Out Of Orbit

With the shuttle grounded, the Hubble troubled and its future role in jeopardy, NASA is an agency lost in space

It was the embodiment of Yankee ingenuity and derring-do, the pride of the U.S. and the envy of the world. The very mention of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration evoked images of intrepid astronauts walking in space and frolicking on the moon, of sophisticated robot craft swooping past ringed and rocky alien worlds. To millions of people around the globe, the voice of Mission Control was the true Voice of America.

Those days are long gone. In Washington NASA is under siege, its reputation tarnished, its programs in disarray, its future clouded. Overhead, the crippled $2.1 billion Hubble Space Telescope...