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Nancy Roman, an astronomer known as Hubble's “mother”



Roman spent most of his career helping to develop, finance, and promote technologies that would help scientists see more clearly outside of Earth’s atmosphere.

“Astronomers have long wanted to receive observations from the atmosphere. To look through the atmosphere is the same as to look through a piece of an old stained-glass window, ”said Roman. Voice of America in 2011. "There are defects in the glass, so the image is blurred."

NASA believed her to direct the agency’s so-called “first successful astronomical mission” —the launch of the Orbital Solar Observatory-1 in 1962 to measure the electromagnetic radiation of the Sun, among other things.

She also coordinated between scientists and engineers the successful launch of geodetic satellites used to measure and map the Earth, and several orbital astronomical observatories, which gave an early impression of the discoveries that could be obtained by sending observational technologies outside the atmosphere.

But she was perhaps most associated with early work with the Hubble Space Telescope, the first large telescope that was sent to space to collect photographs and data from the universe. It is believed that Hubble gave the most significant astronomical observations since Galileo began using a telescope in the early 1600s.

The development and launch of Hubble was fraught with scientific, financial and bureaucratic difficulties over which Roman worked. Lobbying for early Hubble funding, whose price reached $ 1.5 billion, she recalls that every American, for the cost of one movie ticket, could be sure of many years of scientific discoveries.

The Hubble Space Telescope undergoes a final test in 1989 before launch.

The Hubble Space Telescope undergoes a final test in 1989 before launch.Credit:SMH

“During the 1960s and early 1970s, NASA did not have anyone more important to get the first projects and concepts for Hubble funded and completed,” wrote space historian Robert Zimmerman. Universe in the mirror, the story of the creation of Hubble. "Moreover, it was [Dr. Roman] more than anyone who convinced the astronomical community to fall behind cosmic astronomy. ”

The telescope did not start until 1990, more than ten years after Roman retired, but when this happened, his photographs of space electrified the world.

In 1994, when NASA announced the repair of a malfunctioning mirror and other problems that caused its early photos to be blurred, Roman was in the room, knitting.

Edward J. Weiler, the then chief scientist of Hubble, surprised her by recognizing her publicly, according to Zimmerman. “If Lyman Spitzer was the father of the Hubble Space Telescope,” Weiler said, referring to the well-known astrophysicist, “then Nancy Roman was his mother.”

Nancy Grace Roman was born in Nashville on May 16, 1925. Her father was a geophysicist at the US Geological Survey. Her mother was a former music teacher and a nature enthusiast who took her daughter out at night to see the stars.

Roman, who remembered how she had founded an astronomical club at the age of 11, often moved to work for her father before landing in Baltimore, where she graduated from high school. She received her bachelor's degree from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania in 1946 and her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1949 in astronomy.

After early work at the University of Chicago and the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin, she was hired at the Naval Research Laboratory in 1955, doing radio astronomy. NASA was formed three years later, and Roman was among its first employees. She spent the final part of her career at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, where she led the Astronomical Data Center.

Her awards included the award "Women in Aerospace Life" and the NASA Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement. She helped promote professional opportunities for women through the American Association of Women Universities and often performed in schools to encourage children to accept the challenge of science.

Dr. Roman lived in Chevy Chase, Martiland, at the time of her death and had no immediate survivors.

In 2017, Lego released a set of statuettes dedicated to four innovative women at NASA: Sally Ride, the first American woman traveling in space; May Jemison, the first African American in space; Margaret Hamilton, a computer programmer who created the software necessary for Apollo's missions; and Dr. Roman.

"I'm glad," she said once The science the magazine "I ignored many people who told me that I could not be an astronomer."

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