NASA mentioned at the moment a search of presidency archives helps its choice to maintain the identify of its former administrator, James Webb, on its flagship area telescope. Many astronomers had urged NASA to rename the telescope following accusations that Webb participated in discrimination and firing of LGBTQ+ workers from the U.S. federal workforce within the Fifties and ’60s.
In an 89-page report, NASA’s chief historian, Brian Odom, describes a survey of greater than 50,000 archived paperwork for proof that Webb was concerned in what was often known as the Lavender Scare. No proof “instantly hyperlinks Webb to any actions or follow-up associated to the firing of people for his or her sexual orientation,” the report says. As a Division of State undersecretary, Webb attended two conferences in 1950 at which the anti-LGBTQ+ marketing campaign was mentioned. He gave senators info stating that homosexuals have been “unsuited” for employment within the division however tried to restrict congressional entry to the division’s personnel data, the paperwork present.
The report additionally discovered no proof Webb knew of the 1963 firing of NASA price range analyst Clifford Norton after Norton was arrested and accused of creating a gay advance.
NASA first mentioned in September 2021 it could not change the identify of the James Webb Area Telescope after an preliminary examine of the proof. The instrument was launched in December of that yr. However the company was criticized for not revealing particulars of its evaluate. Odom later initiated a extra thorough investigation, looking archives that weren’t open through the COVID-19 lockdown. In addition to reviewing paperwork, the report says he consulted different historians and archivists who had beforehand studied these points.
Some astronomers mentioned they weren’t persuaded by the brand new report and vowed to proceed their quest for the telescope to be renamed. “It’s extremely doubtless that [Webb] knew precisely what was occurring with safety at his personal company through the top of the Chilly Warfare,” wrote cosmologist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein of the College of New Hampshire, Durham, and colleagues in a weblog publish. “We’re deeply involved by the implication that managers are usually not chargeable for homophobia or different types of discrimination that occurs on their watch.”
Different scientists criticized the company’s choice to launch the report on LGBTQ+ STEM Day, which honors “the work and obstacles of LGBTQIA+ folks in science, know-how, engineering, and maths.”
A spokesperson for the American Astronomical Society—which, with different skilled societies, has referred to as for the telescope to be renamed—mentioned it could don’t have any remark till its board of trustees might meet to debate NASA’s choice.