African-American NASA mathematician, Katherine Johnson has passed away at the age of 101.  NASA took to Twitter to announce the news, further writing, “Her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers.” Johnson is known to have calculated the trajectory for the space flight of Alan Shepard, who went on to become the first American in space and Apollo 11; the spacecraft that helped humans land on the Moon for the first time in 1969.

Some takeaways:

  • NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson has passed away at the age of 101.
  • Born in West Virginia in 1918, Katherine graduated from high school at the age of just 14.
  • In 2015, former US President Barack Obama awarded her with the presidential medal of freedom.
  • Katherine helped in calculating the trajectory of Apollo 11 flight to the Moon in 1969. 
  • On hearing the news Hilary Clinton tweeted, “Her calculations helped put Americans in space, in orbit, and, finally, on the Moon.”

Due to her ethnicity, Katherine’s contribution to the United States’ upper hand in the international space race went unrecognized for a very long time. The non-fiction book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly is based on Johnson’s struggle and that of other African-American females scientists at NASA. This book was loosely adapted into a film Hidden Figures which scored three Oscar nominations.

Katherine calculated the trajectory for the space flight of the first American in space, Alan Shepard. Her maths skills also helped take US astronaut John Glenn to orbit the Earth in 1962. As per the BBC, John Glenn refused to fly unless Katherine verified the calculations of the trajectory.

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“Her dedication and skill as a mathematician helped put humans on the Moon and before that made it possible for our astronauts to take the first steps in space that we now follow on a journey to Mars.” – Hillary Clinton

Katherine also helped in calculating the trajectory of Apollo 11 flight to the Moon in 1969.  NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement, “Ms 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 in the universal human quest to explore space.” He further added, “Her dedication and skill as a mathematician helped put humans on the Moon and before that made it possible for our astronauts to take the first steps in space that we now follow on a journey to Mars.”

On hearing the news of Katherine’s demise Hilary Clinton tweeted, “Her calculations helped put Americans in space, in orbit, and, finally, on the Moon.” Margot Lee Shetterly, the writer of Hidden Figures also tweeted “Her brilliance helped us to see and celebrate other #hiddenfigures in history. You changed the narrative… Godspeed, Katherine Johnson.”

Read Also: Class 11 Tamil Nadu Girl Who Gives Tuition And Sells Cashews To Visit NASA

About Katherine Johnson

Born in West Virginia in 1918, Katherine graduated from high school at the age of just 14. She graduated when she was 18 years old and excelled academically. She said that she counted everything.  Giving an example, Katherine revealed that she counted the steps to the road, the steps up to the church, the number of dishes and silverware she washed. She was fascinated by numbers from a young age. In 2015, former US President Barack Obama awarded her with the presidential medal of freedom.

Katherine Johnson joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), NASA‘s predecessor in 1953. Earlier, she was a teacher and a stay at home mother. NASA describes her as an American Hero whose “pioneering legacy will never be forgotten.”

Image credit: Smithsonian Magazine

Mansi is an Intern at SheThePeople.TV.

 

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