Where was this photo of Nancy Grace Roman taken, what is the display shown, is there any technical information on this display and where is it now? If this is a NASA photo then there should be an original ID or catalog number and hopefully explanation, but it may not be a NASA photo.

I spotted this in Nancy Roman Telescope’s Primary 2.4-Meter Mirror is Ready when looking for background information related to the question What “improvements in technology” allowed the primary mirror of RST (WFIRST) to be less than 1/4 the weight of Hubble's?

Source which links to this higher resolution version

Wikimedia Commons File:Nancy Roman Hubblecast.jpg

See also

The display is shown when the narration says:

Nancy followed her dream and became a professional astronomer, working in the new discipline of radio astronomy. And in 1961 she became the first chief of astronomy in the office of Space Science at NASA.

I'm guessing that this display is for the position and other information for a radio telescope, but if so, which one?


1 Answer 1


Her Wikipedia page also includes this picture (public domain), where she wears the same dress, and where a similar display can be seen in the background:

enter image description here

Roman sits at the control console for the Orbiting Astronomical Observtory satellite, launched in 1972 and nicknamed Copernicus. This is a publicity picture; she never actually worked in the Goddard control room.

This page from the University of Chicago also includes a picture of OAO-3 (Copernicus) control room, where a similar display can be seen (I won't paste the image here because of copyright). However, after careful examination, they look similar, but the layout is actually not the same.

This page from the University of Wisconsin has a (poor) picture of OAO-2 (Stargazer) control room (again, not pasted here), where a similar display can be seen. Despite the poor quality, this one seems to fit the one where Nancy Grace Roman is featured.

From these evidence, I'd say:

  • It is definitely a display from an Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, either OAO-2 (Stargazer) or OAO-3 (Copernicus).
  • At least one of the three sites is wrong in its picture caption—I'd guess Wikipedia rather than the university sites, which would make OAO-2 the "winner".
  • $\begingroup$ Wow, excellent detective work, thank you! I didn't know that there were OAO's at all, I'll start reading up on them. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Sep 8, 2020 at 10:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You're welcome! I just thought of another possibility: that OAO-2 control room might have been revamped for OAO-3, but it seems there is a few months overlap between the two missions, so it sounds unlikely... $\endgroup$ Sep 8, 2020 at 10:49

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