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NASA investigates renaming James Webb telescope


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NASA investigates renaming James Webb telescope

NASA is considering whether to rename its flagship astronomical observatory, given reports alleging that James Webb, after whom it is named, was involved in persecuting gay and lesbian people during his career in government. Keeping his name on the US$8.8-billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) — set to launch later this year — would glorify bigotry and anti-LGBT+ sentiment, say some astronomers. But others say there is not yet enough evidence against Webb, who was head of NASA from 1961 to 1968, and they are withholding judgement until the agency has finished an internal investigation.

The JWST, which will peer into the distant reaches of the cosmos, is NASA’s biggest astronomical project in decades, so the stakes are high. In May, citing Webb’s purported involvement in discrimination, four prominent astronomers launched a petition to change the telescope’s name. It has amassed 1,250 signatories, including scientists who have been awarded observing time on the telescope.

NASA’s acting chief historian, Brian Odom, is working with a non-agency historian to review archival documents about Webb’s policies and actions, according to agency officials. Only after the investigation concludes will NASA decide what to do.

“We must make a conscious decision,” Paul Hertz, head of NASA’s astrophysics division, told an agency advisory committee on 29 June. “We must be transparent with the community and with the public for the rationale for whichever decision we make.”


If John Muir is still a hero, then James Webb is small potatoes.

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Is odd to name a spacecraft / probe after some administrator, seems much of the notable names involving astronomy, telescopes have been already used, how about the  Hans Lipperhey or  Jacob Metius Telescope?

(would sound better than the Lettuce Guacamole Bacon Tomato Telescope :P)


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