NASA Names Its New Space Telescope After Nancy Grace Roman

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is naming its next-generation space telescope in honor of pioneer Nancy Grace Roman, an alumna of Swarthmore College and the University of Chicago, who was NASA’s first chief astronomer.

The newly named Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope — or Roman Space Telescope, for short — is set to launch in the mid-2020s. It will investigate longstanding astronomical mysteries, such as dark energy and the search for distant planets beyond our solar system.

Although she was the first woman faculty member in the department of astronomy & astrophysics at the Univerity of Chicago, she left the university after determining she would not get tenure. She went on to join the Naval Research Laboratory and NASA.

Angela Olinto, dean of the university’s Physical Sciences Division and a fellow astronomer, stated that “Nancy Grace Roman was a gifted scientist and an incredible leader for decades at NASA, and we are so proud to have been part of her journey, even if her genius was not fully appreciated at the time.”

Born in 1925 in Nashville, Tennessee, Roman earned a bachelor’s degree in astronomy at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania in 1946. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, where she was discovered more than 200 stars. Dr. Roman joined NASA in 1959, just six months after the agency had been established, serving as the chief of astronomy and relativity in the Office of Space Science.

Dr. Roman died in 2018 at the age of 93.

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