Nancy Grace Roman, "Mother of Hubble," dies at 93

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- Nancy Grace Roman, widely known as the "Mother of Hubble" due to her key contributions to the design and creation of the space telescope, has passed away at the age of 93.

Laura Verreau, a cousin, confirmed Thursday that Roman died on Christmas Day after a prolonged illness, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Roman was the first chief of astronomy in NASA's office of space science, the first woman to hold an executive position at the agency. She was also a lifelong champion of women in the sciences.

Born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1925, Roman had shown keen interest in science since she was little and said her parents had greatly inspired her.

Roman's father was a geophysicist who answered her scientific questions. Her mother, a music teacher and a nature enthusiast, often took her out at night to show her the constellations and the aurora. By the age of 11, Roman had already formed an astronomy club and began to study astronomy on her own.

However, women were discouraged from studying math and science back then. In a video released by NASA in February, Roman recalled that her guidance counselor from high school had sneered at her and asked, "What lady would take mathematics instead of Latin?" She also remembered that her thesis advisor at the University of Chicago once ignored her for six months straight.

Undeterred by such barriers and bias, Roman earned her doctorate in astronomy from the University of Chicago in 1949 and joined the fledgling NASA in 1959.

While at NASA, Roman's groundbreaking work of making the Hubble Space Telescope a reality earned her the nickname "Mother of Hubble."

Roman started planning the Hubble Space Telescope 30 years before its launch. She set up a committee of astronomers and NASA engineers that eventually led to a detailed design for the space telescope.

Thanks to her efforts, Hubble was launched in 1990 and has been in operation for 28 years, providing numerous high-resolution images for scientists to study the universe in greater detail.

Roman worked for NASA for about twenty years until her retirement in 1979. She then continued working as a contractor at the Goddard Space Flight Center, a major NASA space research laboratory in Greenbelt, Maryland.

"It's hard to decide how history will view my accomplishments," Roman humbly said in the video. "People generally aren't terribly interested in what gets things started. And so I'm not sure they're going to have much of an idea of my role." Enditem

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