"It allows us to see the universe in a way we don't have to explain. A picture is worth 1,000 words and so we look back in time at some of the earliest galaxies," he said.
"What we deliver back are stunning images of these fairly early galaxies," Mountain said. "And so we can't disassociate science from the image because there's actually great meaning in the science and the public actually engages in that when they look at these great pictures."
Steve Hawley is one of the astronauts who deployed Hubble. He is also an astronomer and thinks he understands why Hubble resonates with so many people.
"The pictures are breathtaking; the science discoveries are mind boggling. I will be sitting next to someone on an airplane and they will ask me what do I do, and I say I work for NASA and they'll say 'oh NASA,' and they think the shuttle goes to the moon and we launch from Houston but they know about Hubble."
What makes people remember Hubble when they aren't ordinarily interested in space? Hawley has wondered about that.
"Whatever it turns out to be we need to learn that lesson because we need to apply it to other things we are doing. If it's the pictures, if it's the drama is, you know you can always pick up the paper and read something new Hubble has done, maybe people think they are getting value for their tax dollars, but as far as I know we never really studied it, or asked someone who knows how to do that kind of thing to study it, and tell us what it really was about Hubble that people found so appealing."