NASA Goes 'Woke' On Cosmic Names, and Misses the Bigger Point

P. Gardner Goldsmith | August 10, 2020
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In order to keep up with the hectoring and hysterical times, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has announced that it is jumping on the cancel culture bandwagon, and, according to its official - and tax-funded - website, stopping its practice of making fun of people when it names cosmic objects.

In the past, NASA really hasn’t gone about slandering and mocking people by applying names to intentionally disparage or mock. But since Cultural Marxism keeps increasing the list of “bad words” and narrowing the scope of functional language in a manner that would make Big Brother jealous, the federal bureaucracy is taking steps to be more careful so as to not insult or be perceived as “insensitive.”

Thus, we see this:

As an initial step, NASA will no longer refer to planetary nebula NGC 2392, the glowing remains of a Sun-like star that is blowing off its outer layers at the end of its life, as the “Eskimo Nebula.” “Eskimo” is widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous people of Arctic regions. Most official documents have moved away from its use.

Okay. But this is what the Online Etymological Dictionary tells us of its origin:

1580s, from Danish Eskimo or Middle French Esquimaux (plural), both probably from an Algonquian word, such as Abenaki askimo (plural askimoak), Ojibwa ashkimeq, traditionally said to mean literally ‘eaters of raw meat,’ from Proto-Algonquian *ask- ‘raw’ + *-imo ‘eat.’  Research from 1980s in linguistics of the region suggests this derivation, though widely credited there, might be inaccurate or incomplete, and the word might mean ‘snowshoe-netter,’ but there are phonological difficulties with this.

Meanwhile, The Canadian Encyclopedia offers this less specific, though valuable, take:

The word Eskimo is an offensive term that has been used historically to describe the Inuit throughout their homeland, Inuit Nunangat, in the arctic regions of Alaska, Greenland and Canada, as well as the Yupik of Alaska and northeastern Russia, and the Inupiat of Alaska. Considered derogatory in Canada, the term was once used extensively in popular culture and by researchers, writers and the general public throughout the world.

So, perhaps the folks at NASA have a point. Maybe some people are offended by the word, and they might want to change the name of what was formerly known as The Eskimo Nebula. And, please pardon me if, someday, this or any other term is deemed too offensive for even a reporter to repeat.


NASA will also no longer use the term 'Siamese Twins Galaxy' to refer to NGC 4567 and NGC 4568, a pair of spiral galaxies found in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster. Moving forward, NASA will use only the official, International Astronomical Union designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate. 

But the term “Siamese Twins” stems from the first pair of conjoined siblings to achieve international fame. As Phrases.Org explains:

The term 'Siamese twins' derives from Chang and Eng Bunker (1811–1874) who were the first pair of conjoined twins to become internationally known. The brothers were from Siam, hence the name. In their own country, as they had Chinese parents, they were known as The Chinese Twins.

So that doesn’t seem offensive, but, of course, offense is in the eye of the beholder, which makes things kind of problematic when dealing with a government agency.

And isn’t that the larger point?

What’s being missed in all this sensitivity potty-training is the more fundamental, foundational issue.

While NASA hems and haws about terminological use in its day-to-day functions, its day-to-day functions are funded through government force, this year, to the tune of $22.6 BILLION..

NASA bureaucrats are afraid to give cosmological objects names that might be offensive. But the fact that people will go to prison if they don’t cough up the cash to fund the bloated, necrotic NASA -- that’s perfectly fine, or blithely overlooked.

The fact that NASA more than once has been involved with using lots of that cash to fund what some call scientifically sketchy “climate change” data? That, it seems, is also something best left unexplored.

Instead, it seems that this agency, which politicians sneaked into existence by claiming it was constitutionally justified for the sake of “national defense” will continue to explore our wallets, even as it encounters the limits of the commons – a place where not everyone can be pleased, but everyone is liable to pay.

NASA is examining its use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Why not take space research out of the public commons and allow private markets to handle it -- let people fund it if they want to? That way, not everyone has to pay, and not everyone is implicated when the agency makes bad decisions.


Is that still out there, somewhere, in the cosmos?