Nancy Grace Roman, 'Mother of Hubble' Space Telescope, Dies at 93

Nancy Grace Roman, 'Mother of Hubble' Space Telescope, Dies at 93

She joined an astronomy club when she was just 11 and her passion for stargazing continued throughout her life.

While serving as NASA's first chief of astronomy and the space agency's first woman in a leadership role, Roman oversaw the early planning of the Hubble Space Telescope, a pinnacle in her lifelong love of space.

When she died on Wednesday in Germantown, Maryland, at 93, Dr Roman was remembered as "the mother of the Hubble".

"She looked down her nose at me and sneered. What lady would take mathematics instead of Latin?" she said.

Roman studied astronomy at Swarthmore College before getting her doctorate in the same subject at the University of Chicago. Upon leaving the school she took a job at the United States Naval Research Laboratory.

"The NASA family and the entire astronomical community are saddened by the news of Nancy Grace Roman's death", the statement reads. "Everybody was gung ho". Astronomy had always been limited to ground-based technology, i.e. telescopes, but Roman was passionate about launching an in-space telescope.

"Astronomers had been wanting to get observations from above the atmosphere for a long time".

But, convincing ground-based astronomers that space astronomy was worth it wasn't easy, according to David DeVorkin, senior curator of the National Air and Space Museum. She also helped spearhead the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), another orbiting instrument.

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Roman was a key figure in the conception and launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, which has given us some of the most spectacular images of our galaxy.

On the bright side, China conducted more launches, 38, than it has in the past, which also was more than either Russian Federation or the United States. The success of the project led to future space telescopes.

Roman was awarded the Women in Aerospace Lifetime Achievement Award and the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award. She was known as the "Mother of the Hubble" for her work on the Hubble Space Telescope Program.

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First launched in 1990, and still sending back celestial images that are stellar in every sense of the word, the Hubble has carried Roman's legacy far beyond the confines of the world we know.

Roman, who was celebrated as a trailblazer for female scientists and a driving force behind advances including the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, died December 25 at a hospital in Germantown, Maryland.

Placed into orbit from a manned Discovery shuttle and named for pioneering American astronomer Edwin Hubble, it became the first large optical telescope in space. NASA was formed three years later, with Roman among its earliest employees.

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