The RAS and JWST | The Royal Astronomical Society

The RAS and JWST | The Royal Astronomical Society

At its meeting in July, the governing council of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) took the decision to write to the UK’s space agency, the European Space Agency (IS IN) i NASA to express concerns about JWST’s original naming process, the apparent failure to investigate James Webb’s background, and the denial of requests to rename the telescope.

Until that research is done and the results made public, the RAS now expects authors submitting scientific papers to its journals to use the JWST acronym instead of the observatory’s full name. In this case, the previous requirement of spelling the initials in the first mention will not be observed. This change will also be reflected in our communications more generally.

The Society is also urging space agencies around the world, including the UK Space Agency, ESA and NASA, to implement transparent naming processes for future missions.

James Webb was the administrator of NASA during the decade of 1960. His intention led to the success of space projects like the landings of Apollo.

However, his historical reputation is compromised by evidence that he participated in purging gay men from the federal workforce in the 1940s and 1950s in the so-called Lavender Scare. In 1963, while running NASA, agency employee Clifford Norton was also fired for “homosexual behavior.”

Dismissing employees because of their sexual orientation is totally unacceptable. Paula Szkody, the president of our sister organization, the American Astronomical Society (AAS), has twice written to NASA to request access to the archive for an independent historian with expertise in LGBTQ+ history to fully investigate Webb’s role.

The AAS noted that the telescope was named without consulting the astronomical community, and we also understand that the European Space Agency, a major international partner of the observatory, was not involved in the naming process. So far, the two AAS letters have not received a formal response from NASA.

The UK Space Agency, the European Space Agency and NASA are strong public advocates of equity, diversity and inclusion in employee recruitment and retention, ideas central to the RAS mission. We therefore share the AAS’s disappointment in NASA’s failure to respond and to investigate Webb’s background. to establish the facts, and ask that this happen urgently.

#RAS #JWST #Royal #Astronomical #Society

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