NASA’s upcoming Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope has been renamed the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. Dr Nancy Grace Roman was NASA’s first Chief of Astronomy throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Her work over half a century ago paved the way for many of the exploration missions that are now underway at space agencies worldwide.
In particular, she is known as the “Mother of Hubble” for her relentless work to make the "most powerful space telescope" a reality. This became the Hubble Space Telescope, which has now entered its fourth decade of observations.
The Roman Space Telescope has a field of view 100 times wider than Hubble's and will be capable of seeing a bigger picture of the Universe. In particular, it will contribute to our understanding of the accelerated expansion of the universe and facilitate the discovery of many new exoplanets.
“Nancy Grace Roman was a leader and advocate whose dedication contributed to NASA seriously pursuing the field of astrophysics and taking it to new heights,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said in a statement. “Her name deserves a place in the heavens she studied and opened for so many.”
Due to delays to the James Webb Space Telescope, work on the Roman Space Telescope has slowed down over the last few years. It is now scheduled to launch in the mid-2020s and will be placed beyond the orbit of the Moon to minimize the effect of our planet on the quality of the observations.
“Nancy Grace was a modest person but very determined when she believed in something. We are very proud that she stood up for herself in the early years when everyone told her that women could not be astronomers. She ignored people who told her it was not appropriate or that women didn’t have the ability to work in the physical sciences and forged ahead with her studies," Laura Bates Verreau and Barbara Bates Brinker, cousins of the late Dr Roman, said in a statement.
“Although the professional recognition of having a telescope named after her would certainly be gratifying to Nancy Grace, we think the possibility of inspiring other girls to reach for their own stars would give her the greatest satisfaction.”