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On NPR, Sean O'Keefe Weighs in on Renaming NASA's James Webb Space Telescope

September 30, 2021


Sean O'Keefe

Sean O'Keefe

After investigating, NASA does not plan to rename the James Webb Space Telescope, despite concerns that its namesake, former NASA administrator James Webb, went along with government discrimination against gay and lesbian employees in the 1950s and 1960s. The decision to name the telescope after Webb was made by a different NASA administrator, said Sean O'Keefe, now University Professor at Syracuse University's Maxwell School.

"This is an important matter of history, to understand how it is we could possibly have tolerated the purging of talented professionals on the basis of their personal preferences," says O'Keefe. "That's just so objectionable. No question about it, and I applaud the effort to surface the visibility and awareness of it." At the same time, he hasn't seen anything that convinces him that Webb was directly involved in demanding a purge of gay government officials or carrying it out. Read more in the NPR article, "Shadowed By Controversy, NASA Won't Rename New Space Telescope." 

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