The interlocking web: Some future telescope users are urging NASA to change the name of the device


The James Webb Space Telescope image of the same name shows former NASA Administrator James Webb. attributed to him: US Department of Veterans Affairs

As the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) gazes softly into infrared radiation into space to reveal more layers of cosmic history, the controversy over which name it bears simmers a million miles back home on Earth, where a movement is afoot to change the name telescope.

Managed by James E. Webb of NASA as its second administrator from 1961 to 1968, in the midst of the Apollo program, which sought to land humans on the Moon. Earlier in Webb’s civil service career, he served as Under Secretary of State from 1949 to 1952 for President Harry Truman.

Webb’s tenure at the State Department occurred during a period spanning decades when government officials fired or forced thousands of federal employees to resign in an era that writer David K. The Lavender Scare: Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government.

Webb’s association with the mass dismissal of many employees due to their sexual orientation led to a movement to rename the telescope, which was originally called the NASA Next Generation Space Telescope.

JWST is the result of a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. NASA led the development of the telescope, and it was a former NASA official who secured Webb as the telescope’s namesake.

in Opinion article from Scientific American As of March 2021, four astronomers — Chanda Prescod Weinstein of the University of New Hampshire, Sarah Tuttle of the University of Washington, Lucien Wukovich of the JustSpace Alliance and Adler Planetarium, and Brian Nord of Fermilab and the University of Chicago — have expressed dissatisfaction with the NASA designation. This new telescope of a man “whose legacy is at best complex and at worst reflects complicity in anti-gay discrimination in the federal government.”

They wrote: “The name of such an important mission, which promises to live on in the popular and scholarly psyche for decades, must be a reflection of our highest values. James Webb’s legacy is the antithesis of the dream and sense of freedom inspired by the exploration of deep time and distant space.”

As they were “laid off”, many of those who lost their jobs during the lavender panic were not assigned to work in their chosen occupations again; Some were so devastated, they committed suicide.

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