THE Hubble Space Telescope is disabled by a focusing flaw that may have been caused by an undetected human error during the manufacture of polished mirrors for the $1.5 billion craft. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced the problem Wednesday, sending a shudder of disappointment through an astronomy community that has waited years for what were expected to be unprecedented views of the universe from the orbiting telescope.
NASA says the problem in one of the two Hubble focusing mirrors cannot be fixed from the ground. At least two of the five instruments aboard the spacecraft will be virtually useless until a repair mission is flown by the space shuttle.
Plans call for such a mission in 1993, but the NASA says it hopes to make the flight sooner.