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Home / Science / Nancy Grace Roman, NASA's first chief of astronomy and mother of the Hubble Space Telescope, dies at the age of 93

Nancy Grace Roman, NASA's first chief of astronomy and mother of the Hubble Space Telescope, dies at the age of 93



When Nancy Grace Roman applied for permission to attend a second algebra class in high school, a teacher demanded to know "which lady would use mathematics instead of Latin." In college, a professor noted that he often tried to dissuade women from the major in physics. And after graduating in astronomy, she came to the conclusion that a professor in this field had little hope for a term.

Notwithstanding the barriers to women in science, Dr. Roman a professional home at NASA. Even there, she recalled in an interview years later, she felt compelled to receive the honorary title of "Dr."

to use. "Otherwise," she said, "I could not pass the secretaries."

After joining the young room agency in 1

959, Dr. Ing. Roman, the first chief of astronomy at NASA headquarters, a role that made her one of the agency's first female executives. Before retiring in 1979, she remained in this position for almost two decades.

Dr. Roman, who pioneered female scientists and was a driving force behind the advances, including launching the Hubble Space Telescope, died December 25 at a hospital in Germantown, Md. She was 93 years old. A cousin, Laura Bates Verreau, confirmed the death, she said, she did not know the cause yet.

Dr. Roman spent much of her career developing, funding and promoting technology that would help scientists see more clearly across the Earth's atmosphere.

"Astronomers wanted to gain long-term aerial observations of the atmosphere. A look through the atmosphere is like looking through a piece of old stained glass. " Roman 2011 opposite Voice of America. "The glass has flaws, so the picture is out of focus. "

NASA led what it described as the Agency's" first successful astronomical mission "to launch the Orbiting Solar Observatory-1 in 1962 to measure, among other things, the sun's electromagnetic radiation.

It also coordinated among scientists and engineers the successful introduction of geodesic satellites used to measure and map the Earth and several orbital astronomical observatories that provided a first insight into the discoveries made by sending observation technologies over the Earth Veils of the atmosphere could be brought out, combined with the early legwork for the Hubble Space Telescope, the first large telescope that was sent to space for collecting photos and data into the universe. Hubble is widely regarded as the most significant astronomical observation since Galileo began using a telescope in the early 1600s.

The design and implementation of Hubble has been fraught with scientific, financial, and bureaucratic difficulties. Roman had to fight. She campaigned for early funding from Hubble, whose price tag reached $ 1.5 billion, and reminded that every American could be assured of years of scientific discovery for the cost of a ticket to the cinema.

"In the 1960s and early 1970s Nobody was important to NASA, who had funded and completed the first designs and concepts for Hubble," wrote space historian Robert Zimmerman in The Universe in a Mirror, a report on the Genesis of Hubble. "More importantly, it [Dr. Roman] was more than anyone who convinced the astronomical community to stand behind space astronomy."

The telescope did not start until 1990, more than a decade after Dr. Novel. His photographs of the cosmos electrified the world.

In 1994, when NASA announced the repair of a defective mirror and other issues that had led to the disappearance of the camera's first photographs, Dr. Roman in the audience and knitted.

Edward J. Weiler, then Hubble's chief scientist, surprised her by publicly recognizing her, Zimmerman said. "If Lyman Spitzer was the father of the Hubble Space Telescope," said Weiler, referring to the well-known astrophysicist, "then Nancy Roman was his mother."

Nancy Grace Roman was born on May 16, 1925 in Nashville. Her father was a geophysicist at the US Geological Survey. Her mother was a former music teacher and nature lover who took her daughter outside to see the stars in the evening.

Dr. Roman, who remembered founding an astronomy club at the age of eleven, often preferred her father's work before landing in Baltimore, where she graduated from high school. She received a bachelor's degree from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania in 1946 and a PhD in 1949 from the University of Chicago, both in astronomy.

After her early work at the University of Chicago and the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin, she was hired by the University of Chicago Naval Research Laboratory in 1955 in radio astronomy. NASA was founded three years later. Dr. Roman was one of the first employees. She spent the last part of her career at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, where she overseen the Astronomical Data Center.

Her awards include the Women's Aviation Award and the NASA Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement. She has helped promote career opportunities for women through the American Association of University Women and has often spoken in schools to encourage children to face the challenges of science.

Dr. Roman lived at the time of her death in Chevy Chase, Md., And had no immediate survivors.

In 2017, Lego released a series of figures honoring the women of NASA. These included Sally Ride, the first American to travel in space, and Mae Jemison, the first African-American in space. Margaret Hamilton, a computer programmer who developed the software necessary for the Apollo missions; Novel.

"I'm glad," she once told Science Magazine, "I ignored the many people who told me that I could not be an astronomer."


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