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Astronomer, Pioneer

NASA announced in May that one of its most ambitious upcoming space telescopes would be named for Nancy Grace Roman ’46, H’76, who pioneered the role of women in the space agency. 

 The telescope, formerly named the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, or WFIRST, is now the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. Set to launch in the mid-2020s, it will investigate long-standing astronomical mysteries, such as the force behind the universe’s expansion, as well as aim to settle essential questions in the areas of dark energy, exoplanets and infrared astrophysics, and the search for distant planets beyond our solar system, according to NASA. 

As NASA’s first chief of astronomy in the Office of Space Science, Roman was integral in bringing the Hubble telescope to life, then to space. After more than two decades of management at NASA — and having an asteroid, 2516 Roman, named after her — she continued to advocate for young women in the sciences and stayed on top of emerging research. Roman died in 2018 at age 93.

“There’s always an amount of wonder,” Roman said in a Bulletin interview shortly before her death. “Dark energy is a source of energy we don’t even fully understand. We keep discovering things that people never expected to find.”