The extraordinary JWST is named for James Webb, whose legacy I deplore

James Webb’s legacy was to stand for a status quo where queer Black people like me could never have a home in the NASA community. Naming the incredible new telescope after him has come to represent the contradictions of my job, says Chanda Prescod-Weinsten

Space | Columnist 26 October 2022

Fully deployed Webb telescope. Artist concept. The James Webb Space Telescope.

NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

LAST Christmas, I woke early in the morning, which is unusual for me. Not only am I a practising Jew, but it has been a few decades since I was a kid in the household of my non-Jewish parent, waking up eager for gifts. But Christmas 2021 was different. NASA – in partnership with the European Space Agency and other organisations – was launching the next in its series of Great Observatories. I was up early because I wanted to watch and because I was nervous as hell: what if it blew up during launch?

The final price tag for the instrument …

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