The name of the James Webb Space Telescope will not be changed following a NASA investigation into alleged wrongdoing by the former administrator for whom the $10 billion space observatory is named after.
James Webb was a top official in the State Department and later NASA when LGBTQI+ employees were excluded and fired from the workforce, but the space agency said its investigation found that Webb was not complicit in the actions.
A team examined thousands of documents and other correspondence from the period of American history referred to as the “Lavender Scare” — the rooting out of homosexuals from the federal workforce that 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 investigation wasn’t launched until 2021, despite years of calls by astronomers and other scientists to remove the former NASA administrator’s name from the telescope.
A historian said he examined two instances in which James Webb was tied to cases but found no evidence that the then-government official took any actions in the firings.
NASA admits the time period was a dark chapter in the government and space agency’s history, but nothing has risen to the level so far to force the change of the telescope’s name and hopes that by releasing the report, it’ll strengthen efforts to confront exclusivity.
“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 stated.
The telescope is nearing one year in space and has already beamed back stunning images that far surpass the quality of imagery produced by the Hubble and other older telescopes.
The space agency believes operations of the James Webb Space Telescope have exceeded expectations, and the space observatory could easily exceed its expected 10-year lifespan.