James Webb: The name given to the space telescope is homophobic

A year after the launch of the telescope James Webb, this name continues to cause strife. A homophobic option or a simple tribute to NASA’s number two official? On December 25, 2021, NASA, with the participation of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), named it in reference to James Edwin Webb, who died in 1992. According to the allegations, the man whose name the space telescope was named was best known for defending homophobic policy within the agency in the 1960s. He chose a name other than the name of the person who contributed to the success of the Apollo 11 mission, when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969.

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Last spring, NASA acknowledged that the federal government at the time had “shamefully encouraged” discrimination against LGBT employees. A few months later, the historian Brian Odom It published an 89-page report stating, “There is no evidence directly linking James Webb to actions related to the termination of employment of individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation.” sensitive to criticism of the deceased, Hakim Mawati Olosefathe US president of the National Association of Black Physicists, has also immersed himself in the archives, according to reports The New York Times. His research seems to echo the same findings: “I can say categorically that there is no evidence that James Webb is guilty of the allegations made against him.”

real witness?

In a post written with three scientific colleagues, Chanda Prescod WeinsteinJames Webb, a cosmologist at the University of New Hampshire, said it was very likely James Webb “knew exactly what was going on in terms of security at his agency”. Other critics held that James Webb should be held accountable for anti-gay activity at NASA and the State Department, where he previously served as a high-ranking official. Last October, the Royal Astronomical Society of Great Britain referred to James Webb’s “totally unacceptable” behavior. The Society has instructed that any astronomer submitting an article on the subject should not type the words “James Webb,” but the acronym JWST.

“We approach the past with a double vision, so to speak,” he explains James OakesNew York historian of American slavery. We can’t help but watch events from our time, even as we try not to let our preconceived notions take over. »

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