Gallup has released its latest tracking data on American views of NASA. As Gallup describes, according to the Sept. 14-16 poll, 56% of Americans rate the job NASA is doing in positive terms, with 16% saying it is doing an "excellent" job and 40% a "good" job. Meanwhile, just 8% say it is doing a poor job, with most of the rest describing NASA's performance as "only fair."

According to Gallup, NASA has had less-than-majority positive evaluations just twice since 1990, when Gallup first asked this question. The initial 46% rating in July 1990 came shortly after a flaw in the Hubble telescope was discovered. Gallup measured the historical low rating of 43% in September 1993 after a series of mishaps, which included the loss of contact with the Mars Orbiter and a couple of last-second decisions to scrub planned space shuttle missions.

The high point in NASA's ratings came in November 1998, shortly after Sen. John Glenn -- one of the earliest U.S. astronauts -- made a much-heralded return trip to space.