NASA Names Dark Energy Telescope for Nancy Grace Roman

NASA announced Wednesday that one of its most ambitious upcoming space telescopes would be named for Nancy Grace Roman, who pioneered the role of women in the space agency.

Dr. Roman joined the agency in 1959 when NASA was only six months old, and rose to be its first chief astronomer. She is credited, among other things, with championing and spearheading the development of the Hubble Space Telescope. Around the agency and in astronomical circles she is known as “the mother of Hubble.” She died in 2018.

“It is because of Nancy Grace Roman’s leadership and vision that NASA became a pioneer in astrophysics and launched Hubble, the world’s most powerful and productive space telescope,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said in a statement issued by the space agency.

Dr. Roman was born in Nashville on May 16, 1925, and grew up enamored of the stars in an era in which women were not encouraged to pursue science. At Swarthmore College she majored in physics against the advice of her professors. In a video clip shown as part of the announcement Wednesday, she recalled that at the University of Chicago, where she obtained a Ph.D., her thesis adviser once went six months without speaking to her.

Dr. Rubin and Dr. Roman are thus in good company.

In making the announcement Wednesday, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said of Dr. Roman, “Her name deserves a place in the heavens she studied and opened for so many.”

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