Racism undoubtedly affects all areas, even science. Moreover, the field of space science would also be affected, and NASA has confirmed that this is the case by acknowledging, having used “racist nicknames” for the designation of certain cosmic objects.
Aware of the discriminatory nature of this kind of nicknames, the American space agency declared, on August 5, its desire to put an end to this practice. Thus, while gradually eliminating derogatory names from its nomenclature, NASA therefore plans to only use nominations from the UAI (International Astronomical Union).
To do this, NASA plans to cooperate with experts from various fields to find “nicknames more suited” to the common and inclusive nature of science.
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UAI designations with discriminatory connotations
Bringing together professional astronomers, researchers and astronomy educators from around the world, the UAI is, according to NASA, the most suitable organization for assigning nicknames to cosmic objects.
One of the most telling examples in terms of “racist nicknames” is that of “Eskimo”, used by NASA to designate the bipolar planetary nebula located in the constellation Gemini: NGC2392. However, the term “Eskimo” is a pejorative name attributed to certain indigenous peoples of the Arctic living in Canada.
According to Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of NASA, the goal of this new policy is that: “all names are aligned with our values of diversity and inclusion, and to work proactively with the scientific community to help ensure that. Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work must reflect this value ”.
Experts in diversity, inclusion and equity to the rescue
So far, NASA has not given further explanation as to how it will proceed with the implementation of this new anti-discrimination policy.
Nonetheless, the space agency said that henceforth the choice of nicknames to be given to cosmic objects will reflect “its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion”.
As a result, the agency stressed the need for collaboration with “experts in diversity, inclusion and equity in the astronomical and physical sciences”. All this in order to meet the non-discriminatory requirements that we hear a lot about these days.