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  Should NASA Ames be renamed after Sally Ride?

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Author Topic:   Should NASA Ames be renamed after Sally Ride?
Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-10-2014 04:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Should NASA's Ames Research Center in northern California be renamed to honor Sally Ride, America's first woman in space?

The news that Congress has renamed NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center for Neil Armstrong got me thinking: if NASA were to name its centers today, who would the space agency honor?

I think a clear case can be made that Kennedy and Johnson space centers would retain their names for the roles those two presidents played in Apollo. Goddard is a well enough known figure in early rocketry history to also continue serving as a center's namesake.

Glenn and the newly-designated Armstrong research centers would also likely rank on any list drafted today (as evident by their being named such in recent years).

I am not sure you can say the same for Ames, Marshall or Stennis. Do they deserve their honors? Absolutely. Would they make the short list if being decided today, the benefit of 50+ years of NASA history to consider? Probably not.

I recognize and even agree with the sentiment that once a place is named it should keep its name. But it's clear by the Armstrong renaming that the majority do not feel the same way. Though anecdotal, most of the comments I have seen on Facebook and Twitter have applauded the decision.

So that brings us back to Sally Ride.

NASA has a handful of astronauts who have become household names, Glenn and Armstrong — and Ride — among them.

NASA Ames was named after Joseph Sweetman Ames, a physics professor and former president of Johns Hopkins University. He served as the chairman of NACA, NASA's predecessor, from 1919 through 1939. He died in 1943, so didn't live to see or contribute directly to NASA's activities.

NASA Glenn and NASA Armstrong already establish the case for a NASA Ride. Further, it would be the first NASA center named after a woman, advancing Sally Ride's own role in life inspiring young women to pursue careers in science, math, engineering and technology.

Sally Ride has a connection to NASA Ames as well. The center would annually host Sally Ride Science Festivals organized by Ride and her company.

To be clear, I am not necessarily advocating for this renaming but rather asking the question — if renaming centers is something that is going to be done (and Congress has opened that door with NASA Armstrong) doesn't Sally Ride merit that honor?

chet
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posted 01-11-2014 01:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sally Ride is certainly deserving of the honor of having something monumental named after her, but it shouldn't be by bumping anyone else's name off of same. That it just happened, with Dryden-Armstrong, doesn't lend merit to the practice, and it should be discouraged and resisted at every turn, in my opinion.

moorouge
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posted 01-11-2014 03:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I tend to agree with Chet and can understand the desire to have memorials to more recent pioneers of astronautical achievements. But to rename establishments named for those from the past - never. These old-timers were just as important in their field as those from more recent times, perhaps more so in many cases. Any such naming for those from our age should be only for new facilities.

One has only to go back to the sixties and remember the furore that prevailed over the renaming of Cape Canaveral as Cape Kennedy. Then, fortunately, commonsense prevailed and the name reverted to the estalished old one with Kennedy's name preserved as the space centre.

Tykeanaut
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posted 01-11-2014 09:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tykeanaut   Click Here to Email Tykeanaut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree, it is disrepectful and wrong to replace already named places with a new one.

Blackarrow
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posted 01-11-2014 10:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
At the risk of sounding controversial, does that mean it was wrong to rename thousands of roads, buildings and other locations around the world after Nelson Mandela?

moorouge
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posted 01-11-2014 10:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In very rare cases there's always the exception to the general rule, but to answer your specific question - maybe!

canyon42
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posted 01-11-2014 01:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for canyon42   Click Here to Email canyon42     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Blackarrow, my answer to that would be that it depended on whether the previous name for any of those items or places honored a person. In that case, no, I would not agree with renaming it for anyone, unless the previous honoree had somehow disgraced themselves. However, with other types of names, no big deal — I don't think changing "Maple Avenue" or "First Street" is going to offend anyone.

chet
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posted 01-11-2014 02:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It should be kept in mind that name changes usually end up costing money (new signs, stationary, notices, etc... there's usually a pretty not-insignificant domino effect). That may be good for generating new economic activity, but only in the way deliberately breaking windows is good for glaziers.

There are new facilities being built all the time, or others not already named for an individual, and so ample opportunities for honoring those deserving of recognition. It needn't be at the expense of those previously honored.

p51
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posted 01-11-2014 03:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
At the risk of sounding controversial, does that mean it was wrong to rename thousands of roads, buildings and other locations around the world after Nelson Mandela?
I get what you mean, I think.

In 100 or more years, who's going to really care about Mandela, or even know who he was? Not too many, if history has taught us anything on the 'all about the now' nature of humanity.

Heck, people are now screaming to have school names changed from the founding fathers, because some of them held slaves (as did all land owners back then).

People fall in and out of favor all the time. I'm reminded of the opening of the movie, "2010: the year we make contact":

Dimitri Moisevitch: We know you are building the Discovery II to go back to Jupiter, to find out what happened to your men up there. You know we are building the Alexei Leonov to also go up there.

Heywood Floyd: I thought you were going to call it the Titov?

Dimitri Moisevitch: We changed last month; people fall out of favor.

Blackarrow
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posted 01-11-2014 05:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Summing up, I suspect that the only rule is that there is no hard and fast rule. There is clearly no problem renaming "Maple Street" after a renowned international figure, or Idlewild Airport after a murdered President, but whether to rename a street or place which is already named after someone seems to depend on the political momentum that supporters of a recently-deceased hero(ine) or celebrity can build up.

In the case of Neil Armstrong, his historical significance is so great that I can't help feeling that he deserved so much more of an accolade than to have a NASA base named after him. Re-naming the highest mountain in the world "Mount Armstrong" would achieve the level of appropriateness, but please don't fall over laughing - I know that's not going to happen. But is there something on a par with that perhaps?

p51
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posted 01-11-2014 06:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ironically, I can think of nothing which would irritate the man more than naming something after him like this, were he around today to know it was happening...

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-11-2014 07:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't want to make this thread yet another about Armstrong, but the effort to rename Dryden for him began in 2007 and so he was aware of it for a number of years, including seeing the legislation introduced in Congress.

To the best of my knowledge, Armstrong never publicly commented on it, positively or negatively.

David C
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posted 01-11-2014 11:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In a word, no. Firstly, I'm afraid that I just don't view being the third woman in space as that big a deal. Now if she'd been the first person to do x or y then maybe it would be worth considering.

Secondly, at least in the case of Dryden, Armstrong had a significant professional connection with the place.

quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Sally Ride has a connection to NASA Ames as well. The center would annually host Sally Ride Science Festivals organized by Ride and her company.
I'm afraid, that the above doesn't sound to me like a significant contribution to the work carried out over many decades at Ames.

chet
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posted 01-12-2014 09:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
To the best of my knowledge, Armstrong never publicly commented on it, positively or negatively.
That Armstrong was silent on the matter shouldn't at all be taken as some kind of passive endorsement on his part. If he outspokenly or even quietly nodded approval of the move he'd have come off as a bit egotistical (which he certainly was not), and if he went public with his disapproval he likely would have ended up being criticized for seeming ungrateful or for embarrassing those officials who brought up the idea to start with. I think his saying nothing was probably the most wise and prudent thing he could do under the circumstances.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 01-13-2014 01:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What's to say that in 10 (or sooner, or later) years the NASA Sally Ride Research Center won't be named for someone else who is felt deserving to have the facility named after? When does it stop?

mikepf
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From: San Jose, California, USA
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posted 01-13-2014 10:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikepf   Click Here to Email mikepf     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
With all due respect to Sally Ride, I vote to keep Ames namaed Ames. My sense of history and continuity objects to these name changes. It has been named Ames for it's entire history. All it's achievements have been acomplished under that name. Armstrong once said something to the effect that what he did was stand on the shoulders of giants. Dryden and Ames provided some of those shoulders he stood on. Please leave these names alone and find another way to honor Ride and Armstrong.

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