Who was James Webb, the man behind the telescope?

New York – In 2002, he was then in charge of ContainerAnd the Sean O’Keefeannounced that the next telescope built by the agency will be named James Webb, named after the person who led NASA during the 1960s, when it was preparing to deposit a human on the moon. Webb was a staunch advocate of rocket science.

Some astronomers were disappointed that it was not named after one of them, others objected to stronger reasons, blaming Webb in part for “purple horror‘, as cleansing gay and lesbian employees of county administration in presidency Harry S. Truman. At the time, James Edwin Webb served as Deputy Secretary of State.

The topic came back into the spotlight last year when –Lucien Wokweksthe JustSpace Alliance and Chicago Planetarium; Chanda Prescod Weinsteinfrom the University of New Hampshire. Brian NorthFermi National Accelerator, University of Chicago, and Sarah Tuttlefrom the University of Washington – published an opinion article in the magazine Scientific American entitled ” James Webb Space Telescope It should be renamed.”

NASA announced that it will open an investigation and publish a report on the matter. Last September, the current NASA official The former governor of Florida, Bill NelsonHe said he saw no reason to change the telescope’s name. The agency did not release the promised report. The anger was instant.

John F. Kennedy and James E. Webb at the White HouseBBC World/Getty Images

In March, after the launch and appeal the law Access to public informationmagazine temper nature I mentioned that NASA took the accusations very seriously, to the point that Paul Hertzthe acting director of astrophysics, has consulted with independent astronomers If the telescope should have another name. The answer was no, but Hertz did not ask any astronomer in LGBTQ+ . community

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temper nature He also published a case report Clifford Norton – He was fired from NASA for being gay in 1963, when Webb was in charge – and the released footage hinted at the agency’s “habit” of shooting people for case of homosexuality. Norton appealed, and in 1969 his landmark case against Discrimination in the field of work.

In November 2021, a NASA Astrophysics Advisory Committee The agency was requested to obtain a full report on the matter. O’Keefe, the former director, defended the choice of the telescope’s name.

“Without doubt, if not for persistence James Webb To realize the most daring dream of his time, we have exploration ability O’Keefe said in an email:

But the critics did not like it. “If Webb was not responsible for the bad things that happened during his tenure, he is not responsible for the good things either,” said the cosmologist. Prescod Weinstein-. It seems to me that there is a double standard here: they ascribe to him the part of the inheritance that suits them, and pretend that he is responsible only for the things that seem good to them.

“Assuming they should be named after someone, telescopes should be named after someone who appeals to the best of us,” he added.

Written by Dennis Overby

(Translated by Jaime Arambaid)

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