NASA Astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, 'Mother' Of Hubble Space Telescope, Is Dead Roman was one of the first female executives at NASA, its first chief of astronomy and she played an instrumental role in making the Hubble Space Telescope a reality. She died on Dec. 25.
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Nancy Grace Roman, 'Mother Of Hubble' Space Telescope, Has Died, At Age 93

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Nancy Grace Roman, 'Mother Of Hubble' Space Telescope, Has Died, At Age 93

Nancy Grace Roman, 'Mother Of Hubble' Space Telescope, Has Died, At Age 93

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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Nancy Grace Roman led a remarkable life. She joined NASA in 1959, not long after it was created, and went on to become the agency's first chief of astronomy and relativity. She was also known as the mother of the Hubble Space Telescope. Roman died on Christmas at the age of 93. Here's NPR's Russell Lewis.

RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: Nancy Grace Roman always loved to look up at the stars and imagine. At the age of four, her favorite object to draw was the moon. In fifth grade, she organized an astronomy club. When she got to high school, she met with a guidance counselor to plot out a future as a scientist.

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NANCY GRACE ROMAN: And she looked down her nose at me and sneered, what lady would take mathematics instead of Latin?

LEWIS: In fact, in a field dominated by men, she never let that get in the way. She got a doctorate in astronomy and worked at the Naval Research Laboratory and then NASA.

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ROMAN: NASA was a whole 6 months old and was a great place to work at that time. It was - everybody was gung-ho.

LEWIS: Early on, she had to convince ground-based astronomers space astronomy was worth doing. David Devorkin of the National Air and Space Museum says that wasn't easy.

DAVID DEVORKIN: She had that very, very large, egalitarian view of how to make space astronomy part of astronomy. And I think that is a very important legacy.

LEWIS: Among the many projects she oversaw was the creation of the Hubble Space Telescope. The idea had been around for a while. But in an NPR interview last year, she recalled bringing in astronomers from across the country to meet with NASA engineers.

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ROMAN: We sat down together and developed the outline of a design that the engineers thought would be feasible and that the astronomers thought would do what they wanted.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Three, two, one and liftoff of the space shuttle Discovery with the Hubble Space Telescope, our window on the universe.

LEWIS: In 1990, Hubble launched into orbit. The images it continues to reveal are stunning. And its success led to future space telescopes.

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ROMAN: The things around us - the planets, the stars, the galaxies - what are they? How did they come to be? What's going to happen to them?

LEWIS: Nancy Grace Roman was the recipient of countless awards, including a special honor last year. She was highlighted in a Lego set that had four groundbreaking women at NASA. Her figurine stood next to a Hubble Space Telescope. Russell Lewis, NPR News.

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