When Nancy Grace Roman was 11 years old, her family lived in Reno, Nevada. She was fascinated by the stars in the clear night skies and joined friends in creating an astronomical club.
This was the beginning of a lifelong passion for space.
When she died on Wednesday in Germantown, Maryland, at 93, Roman was remembered as the “Hubble mother”.
As the first astronomy director at NASA and the first woman to occupy a leadership position in a space agency, Roman oversaw the early planning of the Hubble Space Telescope, which began to orbit the Earth in April 1990 to capture an unobstructed view of the universe.
Launched into orbit from the manned shuttle Discovery and named after the American astronomer Edwin Hubble, he became the first large optical telescope in space. He expanded knowledge of distant galaxies, as well as planets in our own solar system, transmitting images that would be distorted if they worked from the Earth's atmosphere.
The idea of such a large optical telescope has been common in the scientific world since astronomer Lyman Spitzer Jr. introduced it in 1946. But this concept met with skepticism about feasibility and cost. So the path to the rise of Hubble in the sky was a long one.
"It was Nancy in the old days before the Internet and before Google and email and everything that really helped sell the Hubble Space Telescope, organized the astronomers who ultimately persuaded Congress to finance it," Edward J. Weiler, Roman's successor as a scientist for Hubble, the Voice of America told in 2011.
In addition to coordinating the efforts of astronomers and engineers in their development of Hubble, Roman wrote a testimony for NASA representatives who justify Hubble before Congress, and she submitted the project to the Budget Bureau.
The novel also participated in the development of the Cosmic Reference Explorer, a satellite launched in 1989, which confirmed the Big Bang Theory about the creation of the Universe.
She was a pioneer for women at a time when science was considered the world of men, and she long ago defended the interests of women in science.
“I still remember asking my teacher in high school permission for a second year of algebra instead of a fifth year in Latin,” she recalls. "She looked at me with her nose and grinned:" What kind of woman will take math instead of Latin? "It was a reception that I received most of the way," she told Voice of America.
Roman was born on May 16, 1925 in Nashville, Tennessee, the only child of Irwin Roman, geophysicist, and Georgia (Smith) Roman, a music teacher. When she was 3 months old, the family went to Texas and Oklahoma, where her father consulted oil companies about the possibilities of drilling.
The family moved to Reno when her father was appointed western regional head of federal geophysical research.
“In Reno, of course, the sky was very clear, a great place to observe the sky, and we lived at the time on the outskirts of the city,” recalled Roman in an interview in 1980 for the National Museum of Aviation and Cosmonautics. “We had very few lights. I founded an astronomical club with neighbors girls. We studied the constellations, read astronomy. I just never lost interest in it.
Later the family moved to Baltimore, where she studied in high school. She received a degree in astronomy from Swarthmore College in 1946, received a doctorate degree in astronomy from the University of Chicago in 1949, and then worked at her observatory Yerks as a researcher.
Later, she entered the US Naval Research Laboratory, specializing in radio astronomy, and was hired by NASA in 1959, a year after its foundation.
“The idea of creating an absolutely clean plan for creating a program that, in my opinion, could affect astronomy for 50 years, was just a problem I couldn’t refuse,” she recalls in an interview with the National Aviation and Astronautics Museum. ,
The launch of the satellite by the Soviet Union in October 1957 proved that satellites could fly. However, Roman's early work at NASA lacked the glamor attached to the 1960s manned space flight program in response to President John F. Kennedy’s call for America to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
The novel left NASA in 1979, but continued to work as a consultant as work progressed towards the launch of Hubble. In 2017, when Lego created a set of "Women from NASA", consisting of 23 parts, his image was among the four, which featured women pioneers of space.
Roman's death at the hospital was confirmed by cousin Laura Verro, according to The Washington Post. It said that she lived in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and had no immediate survivors.
In the following years, Roman conveyed his love of space research to young people and especially sought to inspire girls for a career in science. She taught astronomy to fifth graders at Shepherd Elementary School in Washington in the late 1990s.
As she said: "One of the reasons I like working with schools is to try to convince women that they can be scientists and that science can be fun."