• NASA is set to launch the large infrared James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) touted as the “premier observatory” of the coming decade later this year.
• Considered the successor of the Hubble Space Telescope, JWST will study various phases in the history of the universe, from the formation of solar systems to the evolution of our own Solar System.
• But before it launches, NASA has an important decision to make — whether to rename the $8.8-billion telescope.
• These considerations stem from allegations that NASA’s former government-appointed administrator James Webb, after whom JWST is named, had persecuted homosexuals when he had worked for the government.
• In May, four prominent astronomers wrote that Webb (1906-92) purged LGBT individuals from the workforce after he arrived at NASA in 1961 (he served until 1968). The debate marks a rare instance of astronomers making a political statement.
Mains Paper 3: Science and Tech
Prelims level: James Webb Space Telescope
Mains level: Key highlights about the telescope