Hubble Telescope's Cultural Impact
Twenty years ago Saturday, the NASA space shuttle Discovery launched from Florida carrying what would become one of the most iconic instruments in astronomy: the Hubble telescope.
(See a National Geographic magazine time line of the Hubble telescope's greatest hits.)
Since then Hubble has suffered a key mirror malfunction and shuttle tragedies that put critical repair and upgrade missions at risk. Even so, NASA mission managers say Hubble has exceeded all scientific expectations during its two decades in orbit. (See pictures of Hubble's hottest science discoveries.)
Thanks to the space telescope's jaw-dropping images—like this picture of the stellar nursery known as NGC 602 released in January 2007—"Hubble has done what maybe no other scientific experiment before it had done," said astrophysicist Mario Livio.
"Hubble has gotten people interested in space and science related to the universe who never had any interest in this kind of science before. Hubble images have become a part of our culture," added Livio, of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Hubble's science and operations center.
To commemorate Hubble's 20th anniversary, NASA has released Hubble: A Journey Through Space and Time, a book of images—including the pictures presented here—that best highlight the telescope's scientific and societal impacts, according to NASA astronomers.
Hubble Telescope at 20: NASA Astronomers' Top Photos
For the Hubble telescope's 20th anniversary, NASA astronomers selected the pictures they think best highlight the Hubble's scientific and societal impacts.