Alice Gorman (Opens in a new tab)Associate Professor of Archeology and Space Studies, Flinders University
The telescope is a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. more than 300 (Opens in a new tab) Universities, companies, space agencies and organizations are involved.
In this excitement, it is easy to forget that the Webb telescope has been the subject of controversy. Named after a NASA official who was linked (Opens in a new tab) With the persecution of gay people in “Lavender Horror” in the 1950s and 1960s.
Behind the Name: The James Webb Space Telescope highlights the troubled legacy of the observatory of the same name, James Webb, who headed NASA during the Cold War and many say he actively participated in the federal government to purge gay employees. pic.twitter.com/B7sywTrUVWJuly 15 2022
Read more: The Cosmic Time Machine: How the James Webb Space Telescope allows us to see the first galaxies in the universe (Opens in a new tab)
Who is James E. Webb?
He held a senior position in the State Department from 1949 until the early 1950s.
In this role, he was responsible for Apollo program (Opens in a new tab) To land humans on the moon. He was so successful in lobbying for support from Congress that he also navigated NASA through the difficult aftermath of an accident in which three Apollo 1 astronauts They lost their souls (Opens in a new tab) In a capsule fire on the floor.
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Webb pushed to prioritize science in a Cold War environment, where every space mission was a political tool. he is too Promotion (Opens in a new tab) “Psychological war (Opens in a new tab)(or propaganda).
web He left NASA in 1968 (Opens in a new tab) Before Apollo 11 flew to the moon. Later in his life, he served on numerous advisory boards and participated in the Smithsonian Institution, the United States’ leading group of museums, education and research centers. He died in 1992.
What was the “lavender panic”?
During the Cold War, Western capitalist democracies feared communist infiltration. This became known asred dread (Opens in a new tab).” The “tulip scare (Opens in a new tab)“He was entangled with this paranoia.
Supporters of these ideas argue (Opens in a new tab) that because of the social stigma attached to their sexuality, people from the LGBTQ+ community were at risk of extortion to become Soviet spies. From the late 1940s, under Republican political influence Joseph McCarthy (Opens in a new tab)people were LGBTQ + disinfection (Opens in a new tab) of employment in the US government.
Webb’s specific role in Lavender Scare is hotly debated. Many astronomers petition (Opens in a new tab) To rename the telescope, Webb (while at the State Department) noted that he participated in high-level meetings about Lavender Scare policies.
in Scientific American article (Opens in a new tab) Last year, authors led by cosmologist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein wrote,
“The records clearly show that Webb planned and participated in meetings in which he delivered anti-gay material. There is no record of his choosing to defend the humanity of those who are being persecuted.”
But according to the nature of 2021 Article – Commodity (Opens in a new tab)David Johnson, a historian at the University of South Florida in Tampa who wrote the 2004 book The Lavender Scare, says he knows no evidence that Webb led or abetted persecution. Webb attended a White House meeting about the alleged threat posed by gays, But the context of the meeting was to contain the hysteria from members of Congress: “I don’t see him playing any kind of a lead role in Lavender Scare,” Johnson says.
Would it be better if Webb enacted policies passively rather than driving persecution? Other government departments have done actively opposed (Opens in a new tab) Investigation and dismissal of LGBTQ+ employees.
Echoes of controversy
Space tools are usually named through a process of consultation, and the public is often invited to contribute their ideas. It is also not unusual for spacecraft to change names. For example, 1991 Gamma Ray Observatory (Opens in a new tab) I was Renamed after physicist Arthur Holly Compton (Opens in a new tab) after launching it.
Webb Telescope Selection (Opens in a new tab) by NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe in 2002.
NASA official Response (Opens in a new tab) To the argument is that “there is no evidence at this point that calls for changing the name of the telescope”.
Regardless of Webb’s role in Lavender Scare, the question some observers are asking seems to be whether someone is homophobic.
Framing such an issue echoes another argument: the complicity of the German rocket scientist Werner von Braun (Opens in a new tab) In the Third Reich.
Von Braun, who was a member of Nazi Party and SS officer (Opens in a new tab)She played a pivotal role in the US space program.
Today, NASA remembers von Braun’s Nazi past on its site website (Opens in a new tab). But space historian Michael J. Neufeld Says (Opens in a new tab) “His Nazi record was not widely known until after his death.”
Many justify von Braun’s political loyalty by saying that he only wanted to launch rockets into space.
Read more: Two experts break down the first images of the James Webb Space Telescope, explaining what we’ve already learned (Opens in a new tab)
Where from here?
The James Webb Space Telescope is a cornerstone of issues that have emerged in recent times.
For example, there has been a backlash against the memorialization of colonial “heroes” who perpetrated violence against indigenous and enslaved people, resulting in statues all over the world. is overthrown (Opens in a new tab).
Some decry the idea of inclusivity as the absolute in the “wake-up”. Others argue that maintaining historical barriers to participation in science — based on race, class, gender, and disability — means we are missing out on potential talent.
Science is supposed to be objective and not biased. In fact, scientists and science officials are people like everyone else, with their own ideologies and flaws.
The question is whether we judge them by the standards of their time, or by those we follow today.
In the end, perhaps we should remember that a file 1967 Outer Space Treaty (Opens in a new tab) Declares that space belongs to him All humane.
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