In the wake of the renewed controversy surrounding the James Webb Telescope’s namesake, NASA has decided to stand by the name roughly a year into its launch, CBS’ KOVR 13 reported.
The agency revealed last week that chief historian Brian Odom’s investigation into James E. Webb’s tenure as NASA administrator found no connection between him and the wrongful termination of LGBT federal employees.
Webb had been accused in several circles of being connected to the 1950s “Lavender Scare” firings in the State Department and the 1963 firing of gay NASA employee Clifford Norton.
A group of astronomers wrote for Scientific American in 2021, shortly before the telescope's launch, that Webb’s legacy "at best is complicated and at worst reflects complicity in homophobic discrimination in the federal government."
“Webb bore responsibility for policies enacted under his leadership, including homophobic ones that were in place when he became NASA administrator,” the four experts wrote.
Dr. Jane Rigby, the operations project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope, also came out in support of the move to rename the telescope earlier this year.
“Said as a private citizen: a transformative telescope should have a name that stands for discovery and inclusion,” Rigby shared on Twitter.
However, Odom’s analysis of more than 50,000 pages of historical documents from various archives found that there was no evidence Webb was even aware of Norton’s departure or any link to the direct firing of gay employees.
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