” [Roman] is someone I really admire. It makes me happy and proud to be associated with a mission that bears his name. This is something that I will appreciate day after day as the mission continues, “said Julie McInery, assistant scientist for the telescope project, in a statement.
“I was told from the start that women cannot be scientists”
Roman was born in Nashville, Tennessee, May 16, 1925. As a child, she loved to draw the Moon. His music teacher mother would take him for night walks to highlight the constellations and ribbons of the Northern Lights. Her father, a geophysicist, answered “scientific questions,” she told NASA in 2017.
Throughout his childhood, his love of the cosmos grew. Between the fifth and sixth years, Roman organized an astronomy club among his friends to study the constellations. In seventh grade, she knew she wanted to be an astronomer.
“I knew it was going to take me another 12 years of schooling, but I thought I would try and if I couldn’t, I could teach physics or math in high school,” she said. at NASA.
She graduated in 1949 from the University of Chicago with a doctorate in astronomy – one of the few women in the world to have obtained such a degree at the time.
“I certainly did not receive any encouragement. I was told from the start that women cannot be scientists, “Roman told NASA. “My thesis teacher? There was a period when he stayed six months without speaking to me, even when I said hello in the hall. He didn’t want anything to do with me. “
Roman has brought together scientists, engineers and legislators to make Hubble a reality
Roman’s first job after leaving the University of Chicago was in the US Naval Research Laboratory’s radio astronomy program in Washington. At the time, American radio astronomers generally built their own instruments – a business that had more to do with mechanics than with the study of the Universe.
“I didn’t want to start again as an engineer,” Roman told NASA. “I enjoyed the work, so I was not very actively looking for a new job. But when NASA arrived and offered me a job, I decided to take it. “
It was in 1959, when the agency was only six months old. At work, Roman began to use the prefix “Dr.” with his name.
“Otherwise, I couldn’t go past the secretaries,” she remembers.
A few months later, she learned that the agency was looking for someone to set up a space astronomy program.
“I knew that taking on this responsibility would mean that I could no longer do research,” she told NASA. “But the challenge of formulating a program from scratch that I believe will influence astronomy for decades to come was too great to withstand it. “
It was at this point that Roman became the agency’s chief astronomer and began developing concepts for Hubble – an idea that had been launched since the mid-1940s, mainly by astronomer Lyman Spitzer , but which had never progressed.
“Being the first female NASA chief executive has not been very hectic. I was very easily accepted as a scientist in my work, “said Roman.
One of the first things she did at NASA was to organize the best astronomers and engineers in the whole country in 1960, and then have them “sit together and find something that the engineers thought would work, and that astronomers thought they were doing their job, “she said.
“Beyond that, my work tried to convince first NASA, then the budget office, and the executive side of government, then Congress, it was worth it,” added Roman.
“Nancy Grace Roman deserves a place in heaven”
Although Roman retired from NASA in 1979, she continued to consult for the space agency, and her early organization and advocacy sowed the seeds that ultimately led to Hubble and the big observatories program.
Hubble was launched in 1990 on the space shuttle Discovery. Over the next three decades, the telescope took more than 1.4 million observations, and astronomers used the data to publish more than 17,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications, according to NASA.
Above: Roman stands next to a 1/6 scale model of the Hubble Space Telescope outside the Space Telescope Operations Control Center at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, March 31, 2017 .
The Hubble lens captured breathtaking images of distant planets, violent space collisions, and the birth and death of galaxies and stars. He helped scientists uncover the secrets of dark matter, measure the expansion of the Universe and determine that most galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their center.
“It’s hard to decide how history will decide to see my achievements,” Roman told NASA. “People are generally not very interested in what gets things started, so I’m not sure they will have a good idea of my role. “
But by naming the next telescope its name, NASA ensures that the “mother of Hubble” and her contributions to the study of the cosmos will not fade.
“Nancy Grace Roman deserves a place in the heavens that she studied and opened to so many people,” said Zurbuchen.
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
More from Business Insider: