Royal Astronomical Society reconsiders position on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope over gay discrimination claims


The row of stratospheric proportions first erupted in October after the society ordered its 4,000 members to stop using the telescope’s name in studies.

The move relates to archaic claims James Webb fired NASA employees over their sexual orientation.

The James Webb Telescope is widely regarded as the most powerful observatory ever built, named after the former head of NASA who ran the space agency during the mid 1960s.

Now, Royal Astronomical Society has ordered  members to stop using its full title.

James Webb was the second administrator of NASA

The move relates to archaic claims James Webb fired NASA employees over their sexual orientation.

A statement released by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) at the time said that despite Webb’s stewardship leading to the success of projects including the Apollo landings, “dismissing employees for the sexual orientation is entirely unacceptable.”

The society added: ‘His historical reputation is however compromised by evidence that he took part in purges of gay men from the federal workforce in the 1940s and 1950s in the so-called Lavender Scare.’

Mr Webb oversaw the Apollo landings at NASA during the 1960s.

Nasa have now attempted to dispel the claims, with chief historian, Brian Odom, issuing an 89-page report concluding the accusations were misplaced.

However, the space agency acknowledged the federal government had ‘shamefully promoted’ discrimination against gay employees at the time, concluding there was no available evidence to ‘directly link’ Webb to such accusations.

The Royal society has now written to the UK Space Agency, the European Space Agency and Nasa to express concerns about the telescope’s naming process.

Highlighted the lack of any form of investigation into James Webb’s background, the dismissal of requests to rename the telescope was also queried.

The RAS commented: ‘We’re very much aware of the report.

‘We’ve looked at it with great interest, and our council is considering the best way to respond.

‘We just haven’t reached that position yet.’

They added: ‘Until that investigation takes place and the results are made public, the RAS now expects authors submitting scientific papers to its journals to use the JWST acronym rather than the full name of the observatory.’

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Ola Alabi
Ola Moses is a certified writer, He writes technically and creatively. He is the CEO of WORDSWORTH, a house where writing is made easier for all. He is a content creator at EsB TV, since 2019. He is a young man that showcases professionalism in all that he does, he was announced as Child and Green Foundation Person of the Year 2018, one of his many lists of honours.


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