Rethinking How And Who NASA Honors

Keith's note: Yesterday NASA named its headquarters building after Mary W. Jackson, the first African American female engineer at NASA. By coincidence Wil Pomerantz, Vice President of Virgin Orbit, started a Twitter effort to change the name of Stennis space Center - with some solid reasons based its namesake's segregationist past as to why it should be considered. I asked via Twitter why the bust of Nazi rocketeer Wernher von Braun stands in a place of honor at Marshall Spaceflight center - a center whose namesake George C. Marshall had issues with integrating troops during World War II.

At a time when everyone seems to be taking a hard look at commemorating past events with a light shone on racism and the denial of human rights, one would think that someone at NASA would reconsider having the heroic bust of a Nazi SS member who used slave labor to build his rockets as the way to greet people who arrive for work every day at NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center. NASA openly admits that von Braun used slave labor. Yes he was the first center director at Marshall and led a large part of the Apollo effort that landed humans on the Moon. No one is suggesting that this be erased from the history books. But should NASA continue to honor him like this?

Campaign to Rename Stennis Space Center Kicks Off, SpacePolicyOnline

"In a statement, NASA responded that the agency is dedicated to advancing diversity, but did not agree or disagree with the idea of renaming the Center. 'NASA leadership is sensitive to the discussions of racism, discrimination and inequalities going on around the world. We are aware of conversations about renaming facilities and ae having ongoing discussions with the NASA workforce on this topic. NASA is dedicated to advancing diversity and we will continue to take steps to do so.' "

How Much Did Wernher von Braun Know, and When Did He Know It?, Smithsonian

"Michael Neufeld: I agree that he didn't have much, if any, power. And that to say very much of anything was dangerous for him personally. But, again, I would emphasize his personal responsibility for having gone along with this regime, in its aggressive war plans, in building weapons for Hitler, in being a loyal member of the Third Reich, and being a member of the party and the SS. And being personally responsible for using concentration camp labor."

Biography of Wernher Von Braun, NASA

"The V-2 assembly plant at the Mittelwerk, near the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp, used slave labor, as did a number of other production sites. Von Braun was a member of the Nazi Party and an SS officer, yet was also arrested by the Gestapo in 1944 for careless remarks he made about the war and the rocket."

Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp

"The inmates at Dora-Mittelbau were treated in a brutal and inhumane manner, working 14-hour days and being denied access to basic hygiene, beds, and adequate rations. Around one in three of the roughly 60,000 prisoners who were sent to Dora-Mittelbau died."

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on June 25, 2020 9:41 AM.

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