When you peer off into the night sky and see a shooting star or use your telescope to explore distant heavens, NASA wants to make the experience more politically correct and less offensive to you. NASA says, “It has become clear that certain cosmic nicknames are not only insensitive, but can be actively harmful.” To eliminate that potential social justice issue, NASA says they are reviewing their use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
The first object to be renamed is the “Eskimo Nebula”, the glowing remains of a Sun-like star that is blowing off its outer layers at the end of its life. NASA says, “‘Eskimo’ is widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous people of Arctic regions.
The next object NASA finds offensive is NGC 4567 and NGC 4568, known more commonly as the “Siamese Twins Galaxy.” The pair of spiral galaxies found in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster will either simply be recognized as letters and numbers or a more sensitive name.
According to a statement released by NASA, they will use only the official, International Astronomical Union designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate. “The Agency will be working with diversity, inclusion, and equity experts in the astronomical and physical sciences to provide guidance and recommendations for other nicknames and terms for review,” reads NASA’s statement.
“These nicknames and terms may have historical or culture connotations that are objectionable or unwelcoming, and NASA is strongly committed to addressing them,” said Stephen T. Shih, Associate Administrator for Diversity and Equal Opportunity at NASA Headquarters. “Science depends on diverse contributions, and benefits everyone, so this means we must make it inclusive.”
NASA released word of the new policy on Twitter which received thousands of reactions from around the world. “Daniel”, @dealerdanspace, Tweeted, “I am not an american so this may sound disingenuous but as a non-white person this looks a lot like white guilt motivated panic sweeping issues under the rug. A need to wash your hands clean of history with a quick fix solution instead of education dealing with said issues.” While most on Twitter oppose the move, not everyone thinks it is a bad idea. Zach Dilton, @d3mon1x, Tweeted, “i mean, i have strong beliefs but damn do I like this. it’s better than what most other companies or brands do since it’s actually useful for once.”
NASA’s Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity leads diversity and civil rights policies, programs, and services – enabling the universe of available talent to contribute inclusively and equitably to NASA. According to NASA, while the unit’s values are “TBD”, they have three primary goals:
- Goal 1. Empower and advance NASA as a leader and model Agency for Diversity and Inclusion.
- Goal 2. Empower and advance NASA as a leader and model Agency for Equal Employment Opportunity.
- Goal 3. Promote External Civil Rights Compliance in NASA-funded science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and other related programs.
NASA hopes by making the skies more politically correct, they will reach those goals.