Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Nancy Grace Roman, regarded as the "mother of the Hubble Space Telescope," died at the age of 93 in Germantown, Md., on Wednesday.
While serving as NASA's first chief of astronomy and the space agency's first woman in a leadership role, Roman oversaw the early planning of the Hubble Space Telescope, a pinnacle in her lifelong love of space.
Roman was born on May 16, 1925, in Nashville, but her family later moved to Reno, Nev., where her father was named western regional chief for federal research into geophysics. There she became captivated by the cosmos.
"In Reno, of course, the skies were very clear, a beautiful place to observe the sky, and we lived on the edge of the city at the time," she said in a 1980 interview for the National Air and Space Museum.
While living in Reno, Roman started an astronomy club in the fifth grade with other girls from her neighborhood.
"We learned the constellations, read astronomy. I just never lost my interest in it," she said.
Roman sought to pursue her love of astronomy while attending high school in Baltimore and requested to take a second year of algebra instead of a fifth year of Latin at the behest of her guidance counselor, she said in a 2017 interview with NPR.
"She looked down her nose at me and sneered. What lady would take mathematics instead of Latin?" she said.
After earning a degree in astronomy from Swarthmore College in 1946, obtained a doctorate in astronomy from the University of Chicago in 1949, working at its Yerkes Observatory as a researcher and specializing in radio astronomy at the United States Naval Research Laboratory. NASA recruited her in 1959.
She joined the space agency a year after it was founded and went on to work there for two decades.
"The idea of coming in with an absolute clean slate to set up a program that I thought was likely to influence astronomy for 50 years was just a challenge that I couldn't turn down," she said.
Roman retired from NASA in 1979 but continued as a consultant as work progressed toward the Hubble's launching. During this time, she also taught astronomy to fifth graders at Shepherd Elementary School in Washington in the late 1990s.
She was immortalized in a 231-piece Women of NASA LEGO set in 2017, where her likeness was depicted on a figure next to a miniature Hubble Telescope.