NASA is naming its next-generation space telescope in honor of pioneer Nancy Grace Roman, a UChicago alum and NASA’s first chief astronomer.
Considered the “mother” of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, which launched 30 years ago, Roman, PhD’49, tirelessly advocated for new tools that would allow scientists to study the broader universe from space.
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.
Roman becomes the sixth scientist affiliated with the University of Chicago to have an astronomy mission named after them (following the Hubble Space Telescope itself, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, and most recently, the Parker Solar Probe).
Though she was the first woman in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at UChicago, she left the university after determining she would not get tenure, and instead joined the Naval Research Laboratory and NASA.
“This is a wonderful day in astronomy. Every step that we take to acknowledge the brilliant minds that brought us where we are today is one that takes us closer to allowing everyone to fulfill their true potential in science, regardless of gender or ethnicity,” said Prof. Angela Olinto, dean of UChicago’s Physical Sciences Division and a fellow astronomer. “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.”