when the culture wars came for nasa

Will Reid and

Marion LozanoDaniel Powell, Elisheba IttoopDiane Wong, Rikki Novetsky and

The James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful ever made, has revolutionized the way we see the universe. The name was chosen for James E. Webb, a NASA administrator during the 1960s. But when doubts about his background emerged, the telescope’s name turned into a fight over homophobia.

Michael Powell, a national reporter for The Times, tells the story of Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi, an astrophysicist whose quest to end the controversy with indisputable facts only made it worse.

Michael Powell, a national reporter covering free speech and intellectual debate for The New York Times.

A huge circular door opened to revealed a dark space where people in white bodysuits work among metallic equipment. An array of tessellating hexagonal solar panels can be seen in the foreground.
Working on the Webb telescope in 2017. A 2015 article accused James E. Webb of discriminatory behavior during his tenure at NASA.Northrop Grummon/NASA

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Michael Powell contributed reporting.
Fact-checked by Susan Lee.

The Daily is made by Rachel Quester, Lynsea Garrison, Clare Toeniskoetter, Paige Cowett, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Chris Wood, Jessica Cheung, Stella Tan, Alexandra Leigh Young, Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Marc Georges, Luke Vander Ploeg, M.J. Davis Lin, Dan Powell, Dave Shaw, Sydney Harper, Robert Jimison, Mike Benoist, Liz O. Baylen, Asthaa Chaturvedi, Rachelle Bonja, Diana Nguyen, Marion Lozano, Corey Schreppel, Anita Badejo, Rob Szypko, Elisheba Ittoop, Chelsea Daniel, Mooj Zadie, Patricia Willens, Rowan Niemisto, Jody Becker, Rikki Novetsky, John Ketchum, Nina Feldman, Will Reid, Carlos Prieto, Sofia Milan, Ben Calhoun, Susan Lee, Lexie Diao, Mary Wilson, Alex Stern, Dan Farrell, Sophia Lanman, Shannon Lin, Diane Wong and Devon Taylor

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