Nancy Grace Roman, one of the people credited for the creation of the Hubble Space Telescope, has passed away. She was 93 years old.
The sad news was confirmed to the press by her cousin, Laura Verrau. She died on Christmas Day after a long battle with an undisclosed illness.
A memorial service is currently being planned.
Nancy Grace Roman: Paving The Way For Women in Astronomy
Roman is an inspiration to many. She became the first chief of astronomy in the Office of Space Science at NASA HQ and the first woman to hold an executive position at the U.S. space agency. She is also often referred to as the "Mother of Hubble" due to her efforts to make the Hubble Space Telescope a reality and helping establish the new era of space-based astronomical instrumentation.
However, as a woman in a male-dominated field, becoming an astronomer was a challenge. While her family was supportive of her aspirations, the people around her were not.
In an interview, Roman recounted how a school counselor reacted when she asked permission to take the second year of algebra in high school instead of the fifth year of Latin.
"She looked down her nose at me and sneered, 'What lady would take mathematics instead of Latin?'" she said.
At university, her experience was not any better. She also shared how, while at Swarthmore College, the head of the physics department dissuaded her and women from going into physics. Then, at the University of Chicago, her thesis adviser refused to speak to her.
She joined NASA in 1959 as the chief of astronomy. Throughout her time at the U.S. space agency, she was involved in several projects, including what would become the Hubble Space Telescope.
Roman retired from NASA in 1969. However, she continued to serve as a contractor at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland for several years and, up to until her final days, she continued to encourage young women to pursue careers in science and engineering.
NASA Administrator Pays Tribute To Nancy Grace Roman
On Thursday, Dec. 28, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine issued a statement to honor Roman and her contribution to science.
"The NASA family and the entire astronomical community are saddened by the news of Nancy Grace Roman's death," the statement reads. "She first became interested in the stars around 11 years old and her dedication and drive led her to the very top of her profession, deeply respected and admired by scientists around the world."