The rising tides of political correctness became so great that it has surpassed its terrestrial bounds and have reached outer space. This week, NASA announced that it will rename or refrain from using offensive nicknames for celestial bodies from planets to galaxies.
According to a report from the Houston Chronicle, the city-based organization said it will now stop using any nicknames and only use the scientifically proper names.
Because scientific names for the countless celestial bodies are often dull and hard to remember, scientists often referred to them using much more memorable nicknames. Some of them have been given monikers that were appropriate then but has since become sensitive.
For instance, the nebula above is NGC 2392. It was discovered by William Herschel in 1787. For a long time, scientists often referred to it as the “Eskimo Nebula”. The “Siamese Twins Galaxy” pictured below will only be referred to as NGC 4567 and NGC 4568 from now on.
In the news release, NASA was apologetic in its tone. Saying that there is an overall atmosphere of identifying established relics of a more discriminatory past in the field of sciences, NASA said that there was a problem with the nicknames.
The agency said these nicknames go beyond being just insensitive, but actively hurtful. Neither the announcement nor its spokesperson identified any individual nicknames that could be potentially problematic, or if anyone actually filed a complaint within the organization.
NASA said that in its ongoing investigation on systemic racism within the agency, it has identified the use of offensive and insensitive nicknames as one of the most hurtful and yet one of the easier problems to solve.
Stephen T. Shih, who is one of the executives that serve as NASA’s Diversity and Equal Opportunity division, concurred with the agency’s self analysis. As the last name suggests, Shih is an Asian American.
Nonetheless, Shih said that these nicknames hail from a much more insensitive period in time. He said some of the names have outright offensive or racist roots, and said such practices violate NASA’s values and virtues. In the announcement, the agency mentioned “diversity, equity and inclusion”.
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