LGBT activists rebuffed as NASA refuses to rename James Webb telescope

Space agency says historical investigation reveals no connection between Webb and "lavender scare."

Updated: November 19, 2022 - 2:36pm

NASA this week rebuffed calls from LGBTQ activists to rename their latest space telescope, claiming that there is no evidence the scope’s namesake was involved in the historical antagonism of gay individuals.

Advocates had been demanding the name change since last year. A group of astronomers in March of 2021 demanded in a Scientific American essay that the space agency develop a new name for the then-unlaunched telescope because of what they said was former NASA administrator James Webb’s "complicity in persecution" of gay people. 

In what some historians have dubbed the "lavender scale," the U.S. government in the mid-20th century regularly fired gay workers from its ranks. The writers in Scientific American claimed that Webb during his time at NASA "planned and participated in meetings during which he handed over homophobic material."

In a press release on Friday, NASA said its chief historian "led a review of over 50,000 pages of documents from archival collections" related to these allegations. In its full report on the matter, the agency said that "no available evidence directly links Webb to any actions or follow-up related to the firing of individuals for their sexual orientation."

"Based on the available evidence, the agency does not plan to change the name of the James Webb Space Telescope," NASA said in its release

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