James Webb Telescope Won’t Be Renamed After Government Investigation

by Sean Griffin
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The James Webb Space Telescope will not undergo a name change. After a NASA investigation into alleged wrongdoing by the former top administrator, James Webb, for whom the massive space observatory is named for.

Webb was an official in the State Department and later NASA. During his tenure, according to the report, LGBTQI+ employees were excluded and fired from the workforce. However, the investigation found that Webb wasn’t complicit in those actions, and so they will keep his name on the project.

A team combed over thousands of documents and other notes from the time of American goverment history referred to as the “Lavender Scare.” This refers to when homosexuals were weeded out from the federal workforce. This period started in the 1940s and continued for decades.

“For decades, discrimination against LGBTQI+ federal employees was not merely tolerated, it was shamefully promoted by federal policies. The Lavender Scare that took place following World War II is a painful part of America’s story and the struggle for LGBTQI+ rights,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “After an exhaustive search of U.S. government and Truman library archives, NASA’s historical investigation found, ‘To date, no available evidence directly links Webb to any actions or follow-up related to the firing of individuals for their sexual orientation,’ as stated on page four of the report.”

The organization didn’t start the investigation until 2021. For years prior, astronauts and other scientists had called on NASA to remove the former administrator’s name from their telescope.

A historian claimed to have examined two situations where James Webb was tied to these cases. However, they found no evidence that Webb took any actions in these firings.

James Webb Telescope Nearing One Year in Space

NASA refers to the period as a dark time in the space agency’s history. However, so far, nothing was found that would warrant changing the name of the telescope. The agency hopes that by releasing the report, it’ll improve efforts to combat exclusive practices.

“NASA’s core values of equality and inclusivity are in part what makes this agency so great, and we remain committed to ensuring those values are lived out throughout the workplace,” Nelson said.

The telescope is nearing one year in space. It has already returned stunning images that already overtake the quality of images produced by the Hubble telescope.

The space agency believes operations of the James Webb Space Telescope have exceeded initial expectations.

JWST is the largest optical telescope in space. Its high resolution and sensitivity allow the telescope to see objects too ancient, distant, or faint for the Hubble Space Telescope.

This breakthrough telescope helps scientific inquiries across many fields of astronomy and cosmology. These include the observation of the first stars, the formation of the first galaxies. Moreover, it includes even detailed atmospheric descriptors of potentially habitable planets.

NASA led the design and development, partnering with two main agencies. They joined with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in their efforts on the telescope.