Pioneering NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson died on Monday at the age of 101, as announced by the space agency. Katherine, whose calculations helped NASA with the early space missions and the Apollo 11 moon landing, earned nationwide acclaim years later after her story was told in a book and in the 2016 Oscar-nominated movie Hidden Figures.
We're saddened by the passing of celebrated #HiddenFigures mathematician Katherine Johnson. Today, we celebrate her 101 years of life and honor her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers: https://t.co/Tl3tsHAfYB pic.twitter.com/dGiGmEVvAW— NASA (@NASA) February 24, 2020
During her time working at NASA, Katherine had made major contributions including calculating the trajectory of Alan Shepard's 1961 space flight and helping put US astronaut John Glenn into orbit around the Earth the following year. She had verified the calculations made by new electronic computers before the flight. After years of contributions, she finally retired in 1986.
Katherine Johnson was famously depicted in the biographical-drama film Hidden Figures by Taraji P. Henson. The movie tells the story of African-American black women whose crucial contributions made America's triumph in the space race possible.
Katherine Johnsons' career accomplishments were first documented in the book Hidden Figures before it went on to become a popular film. In 2015, Johnson was awarded the nation's highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Barack Obama also paid her a tribute on Monday
After a lifetime of reaching for the stars, today, Katherine Johnson landed among them. She spent decades as a hidden figure, breaking barriers behind the scenes. But by the end of her life, she had become a hero to millions—including Michelle and me. pic.twitter.com/isG29nwBiB— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 24, 2020
Image credits: Twitter | NASA