NASA says it has no plans to rename the James Webb Space Telescope, which was named after a former administrator who allowed the government to discriminate against lesbian and gay employees.
Talking to NPR, NASA Administrator Bill nelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNASA Will Not Change Name of James Webb Space Telescope Despite Controversy FAA Introduces New System to Reduce Aircraft Time on Taxiways Technology is easy but politics is difficult for the System Lunar Human Landing System MORE He said: “We have found no evidence at this time to justify renaming the James Webb Space Telescope.”
The telescope is considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and is expected to launch later this year.
However, more than 1,000 people signed a petition earlier this year calling for the telescope’s name to be changed because Webb was allegedly complicit in the purge of LGBT people from the government service, known as “The Lavender Scare.”
the letter He says that “under Webb’s leadership, queer people were persecuted. Those who would excuse Webb’s failure in leadership cannot simultaneously give him credit for his management of Apollo.”
After the letter was made public, NASA opened an investigation to examine the allegation against Webb.
Scientific Communications Director Karen Fox told NPR: “We have done all we can at this time and have exhausted our research efforts.”
“Those efforts have uncovered no evidence to justify a name change,” he added.
NPR noted that the decision to name the telescope after Webb, which breaks the tradition of naming telescopes after famous scientists, was made by former NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe.
O’Keefe, who like Webb also has no scientific background, said he decided to name the telescope after Webb after an informal conversation with other NASA employees and said others seemed to like the idea. Although surprised by the outrage, O’Keefe said he understood the concern.
“This is an important matter of history, understanding how it is possible that we could have tolerated the purge of talented professionals based on their personal preferences,” O’Keefe told NPR. “That is so objectionable. There is no question about it, and I applaud the effort to bring out the visibility and awareness of it.”
However, he added that he had seen no evidence to suggest that Webb was directly involved in the purge of LGBT people from government posts.