Currently, NASA is scheduled to unveil its new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which will end a campaign from multiple astronomers and many other activists who claim that James Webb, the telescope’s namesake “persecuted” LGBT people under his employ while he was an administrator of NASA back in the 1950s and 1960s. These claims were later found by NASA to be without any merit.
“Since May, more than 1,200 people, including scientists who are slated to use the telescope after its planned December launch, have signed a petition calling for the JWST to be renamed,” reported Nature.
“Webb held multiple leadership positions in the US government during a period in which gay and lesbian federal employees were systematically fired because of their sexual orientation,” claimed the group, as reported by the news source. “For instance, he was NASA administrator when an agency employee was fired in 1963 on suspicion of being gay.”
NASA, which has only just launched an ad campaign that was designed to target progressive sentiment that was labeled “critical space theory,” as reported by the New York Post, reportedly took the statements to heart and launched an in-depth internal investigation that, NASA states, discovered no evidence at all that would warrant the agency changing the name of the JWST.
NASA also appeared to spare no expense in regards to the investigation, reportedly including “several archivists going through NASA’s internal records, interviewing other historians who had studied Webb, and hiring an external historian to explore aspects such as Webb’s career at other government agencies.” They did not look into records that were not digitized, but mostly due to the fact that libraries were restricted as part of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Queer scientists,” however, stated that they are quite disappointed in NASA because they did not take them at their word and simply capitulate to the strong-arm tactics and just rename the telescope.
They state that the gut-punch is the outright refusal to hear out the voices of queer astronomers, “one astrophysicist who spoke to Nature said. “This is a refusal to confront history. If we can’t have that, how are we going to shed light on the oppression that people are facing?”
“For all the institution’s talk of equity and diversity, they don’t seem to be particularly concerned with public accountability about sensitive issues that have impacted a historically marginalized group,” the author of the petition stated to the magazine.
It does not appear that the petitioners, which include the four people who initially slung the accusations at Webb of wrongdoing, provided any evidence whatsoever that Webb was being intentionally discriminatory against any LGBT people, only that, back in the ’60s, most federal agencies were not very welcoming to gay and lesbian engineers and scientists.
Instead of proof, they tried to appeal emotionally with circumstantial evidence about NASA s a whole.
“At the heart of the controversy is what responsibility government officials bear for discriminatory actions and policies at agencies they headed,” reported Nature. “Webb ran NASA between 1961 and 1968, during the height of the exploration programs that eventually sent astronauts to walk on the Moon. Critics point out that Webb was therefore in charge in 1963, when Clifford Norton, a suspected gay employee, was fired.”