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NASA’s WFIRST Hubble Telescope renamed after astronomer Nancy Grace Roman

Nancy Grace Roman is considered as the mother of Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched 30 years ago.

May 26, 2020 16:55 IST
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NASA has renamed its next-generation space telescope- Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), after the space agency’s first chief astronomer Nancy Grace Roman. The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope or Roman Space Telescope is set for launch in 2025. 

NASA’s first Chief Astronomer Nancy Grace Roman had paved the way for space telescopes focused on the broader universe. She is considered as the mother of Hubble Space Telescope, which had launched 30 years ago. 

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stated that it was because of Nancy Grace Roman’s leadership and vision that NASA became a pioneer in astrophysics and launched Hubble, the world’s most powerful space telescopes. He stated that he cannot think of a better name for WFIRST, which will be a successor to the Hubble and Webb space telescopes.

Roman Space Telescope: Objective

The Roman Space Telescope is expected to help NASA gain a better understanding of space and help the space agency unravel the long-standing astronomical mysteries, such as the force behind the universe’s expansion and also boost its search for distant planets beyond our solar system.

Who was Nancy Grace Roman?

Nancy Grace Roman was born on May 16, 1925 in Nashville, Tennessee. Roman wanted to become an astronomer since she was in seventh grade.

However, she was faced with challenges that plagued many women of her generation interested in advancing in scientific research. Despite being discouraged from pursuing science, Roman earned a bachelor’s degree in astronomy in 1946 and earned a doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1949.

Roman soon took up a position at the US Naval Research Laboratory and worked tirelessly to research on cosmic questions through radio waves. 

Roman joined NASA in 1959, six months after the establishment of the agency. She served as the Chief of Astronomy and relativity in NASA’s Office of Space Science. She was responsible for managing astronomy-related programmes and grants.

Despite her swift professional progress, Roman kept facing gender disparity, as it was a difficult era for women who wanted to advance in scientific research.

She continued to persist in her vision to establish new ways to investigate the secrets of the universe. 

Under Roman’s leadership, NASA launched four Orbiting Astronomical Observatories between 1966 and 1972. Only two among the four were successful and they revealed the value of space-based astrophysics and represented the precursors to Hubble.

Nancy Grace Romanis credited with making the Hubble Space Telescope a reality. The telescope, which was launched amid intense scrutiny, turned out to be one of the most revolutionary space telescopes of all time. 

Roman has been called the mother of the telescope, as she had tirelessly spoken in favour of new tools that would allow scientists to study the broader universe from space. 

Roman passed away in 2018, leaving a tremendous scientific legacy behind. The Hubble Space Telescope is currently the world’s most powerful and productive space telescope. 

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