Astronomers call for James Webb Space Telescope to be renamed

21 July 2022

While the images being collected by the newly operational James Webb Space Telescope have been stunning, some people are questioning whether the telescope should be named in honour of James Webb. Webb was NASA administrator from 1961 until 1968, and during his tenure he oversaw preparations for the early Apollo Moon flights.

But some astronomers and scientists are calling for NASA to rename the space telescope in light of allegations Webb persecuted LGBTQ+ people, during, and before, his time as NASA administrator.

The telescope’s name has been criticised by many scientists amid allegations that Webb was linked to persecution of LGBTQ+ people in the 1950s and 1960s. The Lavender Scare witch-hunt resulted in the mass dismissal of gay and lesbian people from the US government service in the mid-20th century.

To date NASA has refused to yield, claiming there is no evidence supporting the allegations against Webb.

In September last year, NASA announced it would not change the telescope’s name. “We have found no evidence at this time that warrants changing the name of the James Webb space telescope,” NASA’s current administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement in September.

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