The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) named one of their numerous facilities after Katherine G. Johnson, who computed trajectories for John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission to orbit Earth and Neil Armstrong’s Apollo’s Lunar Lander. The Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility (IV&V) was renamed February 22, NASA announced. President Donald Trump signed a law in December calling for the redesignation, NBC Washington says. The New York Times writes that Joylette Hylick, one Johnson’s daughters, says that her mother is living comfortably and is humbled by the recognition. Hylick added that she hoped the dedication would inspire others in the future, beyond Black History Month. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said, “I am thrilled we are honoring Katherine Johnson in this way as she is a true American icon who overcame incredible obstacles and inspired so many.” Previously, Johnson won the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2015 and countless other awards for her prestigious talent for mathematics.
Johnson, along with Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson, were three main characters in the 2016 film Hidden Figures, which chronicles the journey of these three African-American women and their success at Langley Research center in Hampton, Virginia. The film was based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly and won three Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. CNN reports that “Johnson's contributions, like those of many female ‘computers,’ were often overlooked in history.” That’s certainly true. Johnson was born in 1918 in West Virginia, where equality was hard to come by. Her skill led her several grades ahead of her age. When she was only 13, she was attending high school and when she was 18, she had enrolled in college. Johnson graduated with honors and took a teaching job at a segregated public school, although her sights were still set on math.
When West Virginia decided to desegregate schools in 1939, a professor chose Johnson and two male students to enter the West Virginia University graduate school. NASA says that Johnson left the school at the end of the first session to marry and raise children. In 1952, Johnson was told by a friend that a spot was open at the Langley laboratory in Hampton, Virginia. Johnson, then Goble, moved to accommodate the position at Langley. During that time, she analyzed data from flight tests. Katherine’s husband, James Goble, died of cancer shortly before Sputnik’s launch. Johnson did some math for a compilation of documents. The engineers of this compilation later formed the Space Task Group and Katherine “moved along” with them. She did the trajectory analysis for Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 and coauthored a report describing how to know where a spacecraft would land. Johnson then completed the work she was known for. The IBM machines (the first computing machines, or computers) were prone to blackouts and technology problems, which made everyone at NASA cautious of them. John Glenn basically refused to go into his capsule, Friendship 7, until Katherine Johnson had checked them herself. She retired after 33 years at Langley and several year’s worth of important work in service of America’s space age.
Now, after her work being held from the outside world for more than a half a century, Johnson deserves this recognition. Katherine, be proud of this. Your talent and prestigious skill makes all of us proud and inspires young women like me to follow in your footsteps.
Story by Caroline Barton
SOURCE FOR PICTURE: https://www.makers.com/profiles/591f267c6c3f646439558630