Skip to comments.Pioneering black NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson dies at 101: Her Calculations of Orbital Mechanics were critical to the success of the U.S. crewed spaceflights
Posted on 02/24/2020 8:58:07 PM PST by SeekAndFind
Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who calculated rocket trajectories and earth orbits for NASAs early space missions and was later portrayed in the 2016 hit film Hidden Figures, about pioneering black female aerospace workers, has died. She was 101.
Johnson died Monday of natural causes at a retirement community in Newport News, Virginia, family attorney Donyale Y. H. Reavis told The Associated Press.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement that Johnson helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors for women and people of color.
Johnson was one of the computers who solved equations by hand during NASAs early years and those of its precursor organization, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.
Johnson and other black women initially worked in a racially segregated computing unit in Hampton, Virginia, that wasnt officially dissolved until NACA became NASA in 1958. Signs had dictated which bathrooms the women could use.
Johnson focused on airplanes and other research at first. But her work at NASAs Langley Research Center eventually shifted to Project Mercury, the nations first human space program.
Our office computed all the (rocket) trajectories, Johnson told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in 2012. You tell me when and where you want it to come down, and I will tell you where and when and how to launch it.
In 1961, Johnson did trajectory analysis for Alan Shepards Freedom 7 Mission, the first to carry an American into space. The next year, she manually verified the calculations of a nascent NASA computer, an IBM 7090, which plotted John Glenns orbits around the planet.
Get the girl to check the numbers, a computer-skeptical Glenn had insisted in the days before the launch.
(Excerpt) Read more at wtop.com ...
Kathrine Johnson's work included calculating trajectories, launch windows and emergency return paths for Project Mercury spaceflights, including those for astronauts Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and John Glenn, the first American in orbit, and rendezvous paths for the Apollo Lunar Module and command module on flights to the Moon.
Her calculations were also essential to the beginning of the Space Shuttle program, and she worked on plans for a mission to Mars.
In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson as a lead character in the 2016 film Hidden Figures.
In 2019, Johnson was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal
I know it was the 60s, but what difference does color make?
AP wants to keep the plantation secure.
She also showed IBM their card flaws
If you showed me either of those pictures without telling me who it was, I would assume it was a white woman. Looks like the media is still going by the old one drop rule.
Nothing but blessings to this outstanding American.
It’s sad the left just uses black people as props and pawns.
Especially the best of them.
“I know it was the 60s, but what difference does color make?
AP wants to keep the plantation secure.
Exactly correct. She was there because she was damn good. She just happened to black. The astronauts trusted her calculations. That is good enough for me.
1/1024 at LEAST
A brilliant shining star.
She don’t look black. She was really smart though! Great American!!!
yeah too bad she’s WHITE!!!
She as black as I am Irish :)
"The girl" always bugged me...and I was born in 1951. It was so demeaning to me. Or "I'll have my girl do it."
What an amazing woman. I look forward to watching the movie. It's one of the very few things Obumbler did right.
“If you showed me either of those pictures without telling me who it was, I would assume it was a white woman. Looks like the media is still going by the old one drop rule.”
Yep! Felt the same way.
An inspiring story. A great American. Loved the movie, too.
Woah! I was expecting the black ladies from the movie. She’s 15-20 percent black, tops, because of that hair and face structure.
So basically she double checked the correct calculations of a computer and that makes her a national hero? I don’t doubt her intelligence but this is making making a mountain out of a molehill.
From my experience, except in male dominated industries, women with proper credentials and career focus did quite well for themselves. Same can be said for black people.
Almost without exception, black kids in my schools with parents who were typical middle class were treated with respect and were the most popular kids in school.
It was more about traditional roles than anything else. People just did not see women as soldiers, police officers and firemen and very few women wanted to take a very stressful career path and choose to get married and have kids as a priority.
Can you do math at this level? Note the co-author.
Recently met an elderly black woman who worked at NASA as a computer scientist in the 70’s. She said to me “One of the worst day of my life was when I dropped the atmosphere of Mars on the floor!”
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