Home / Science / NASA astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, "Mother" of the Hubble Space Telescope, is dead: NPR

NASA astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, "Mother" of the Hubble Space Telescope, is dead: NPR



Astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, known as "Mother" of Hubble, died at 93.

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Astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, known as "Mother" of Hubble, died at 93.

Courtesy of NASA

When Nancy Grace Roman was a child, her favorite item was drawing the moon.

Her mother used to take her walks during the night sky and show her constellations or point to Aurora's colorful swirls. Roman loved to look up at the stars and imagine.

Finally, her passion for stargazing flourished into a career as a famous astronomer. Roman was one of NASA's first female heads, serving as the agency's first astronomer.

Known as "Hubble's mother", for her role in making the Hubble Space Telescope a reality, Roman worked at NASA for nearly two decades. She died on December 25 at the age of 93.

Roman struggled to serve his place on a field dominated by men who paved the way for future female scientists. She was born in Nashville, Tenn. 1925 and organized an astronomical club in fifth grade. She attended the high school in Baltimore, where she asked to take a second year of algebra instead of a fifth year of Latin.

When she made the appeal, in an interview with 2017 with NPR, she told the counselor that she did not support her dream of becoming a scientist.

"She looked down my nose and crept. What lady would take mathematics instead of Latin?"

Roman went on to obtain a bachelor's degree from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania in 1946 and a doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1949, both in astronomy . After working at the Naval Research Laboratory, she then went to NASA in 1959. "NASA was a full six months old and it was a good place to work at that time," said Roman in her 2017 interview. "Everyone was gung ho."

From the get-go, Roman space-based astronomy, where instrumentation is based in space, promoted unlike traditional terrestrial astronomical equipment, such as telescopes. The reason for this pressure is to look through the earth's atmosphere blurs or reduces the quality of observation.

But convincing terrestrial astronomers like space astronomy were worth it was not easy, according to David DeVorkin, senior curator of the National Air and Space Museum.

"She had the very large, egalitarian perception of how to create space-stream astronomy in astronomy and I think that is a very important legacy," he said.

Her efforts helped to lead to the creation of the Hubble Space Telescope. In his role at NASA, the Roman space telescope developed and planned Hubble, which is known for its amazing images of space.

10 Striking Images from the Hubble Space Telescope

NASA / Getty Images

Due to the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists have been able to collect data and gain insight into even the outer galaxies of the universe. The success of the project led to future space telescopes.

However, Roman work graced far beyond just the Hubble Space Telescope. In an interview with NASA, Roman stated that one of the highlights of her career was when she discovered the first indication that ordinary stars were not as big.

Lego honored astronomer Nancy Grace Roman by including her figure displayed next to the Hubble Space Telescope in a set of groundbreaking NASA women.

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Lego honored astronomer Nancy Grace Roman by including her figure displayed next to the Hubble Space Telescope in a set of groundbreaking NASA women.

Russell Lewis / NPR

Roman retired from NASA in 1979, but her work earned her the women in the Aerospace Lifetime Achievement Award and the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award. She received a special honor last year when she was highlighted in a Lego set of four groundbreaking women at NASA.

In the Lego series, her figure stands at a miniature Hubble Space Telescope – a replica of the instrument that took the world's dazzling images of the stars she loved as well as a child.

NPR's Amanda Morris produced this story for digital.


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