NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson is dead at 101
Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician whose work broke down racial and social barriers and who was the inspiration for the award-winning film Hidden Figures, has died at 101.
In a Monday morning tweet, the space agency said it celebrates her 101 years of life and her legacy of excellence and breaking down racial and social barriers.
Johnson was one of the so-called “computers” who calculated rocket trajectories and earth orbits by hand during NASA’s early years.
Until 1958, Johnson and other black women worked in a racially segregated computing unit at what is now called Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
Their work was the focus of the Oscar-nominated 2016 film Hidden Figures.
In 1961, Johnson worked on the first mission to carry an American into space.
In 1962, she verified computer calculations that plotted John Glenn’s earth orbits.
At age 97, Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour.
Johnson focused on aeroplanes and other research at first.
But her work at NASA’s Langley Research Center eventually shifted to Project Mercury, the nation’s 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.”
Liz Hurley still looks this good in a bikini
Donald Trump draws record crowds in India
Julian Assange faces London court in extradition trial
In 1961, Johnson did trajectory analysis for Alan Shepard’s 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 Glenn’s orbits around the planet.
Actor Taraji P. Henson played Johnson in the 2016 film, which won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.