‘Hidden Figures’ Katherine Johnson played instrumental role in U.S. space exploration

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(Last Updated On: February 29, 2020)

Photo caption: NASA research mathematician Katherine Johnson is photographed at her desk at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Born on Aug. 26, 1918, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Johnson worked at Langley from 1953 until her retirement in 1986. | Photo Credit: NASA

Empower Magazine salutes Katherine Johnson, the NASA legend who was heralded for her contributions to NASA in the film ‘Hidden Figures.” Johnson, portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in the film, passed away at the age of 101 on Feb. 24.

A native of West Virginia, born in 1918, Johnson’s mathematical genius was instrumental in helping the United States to advance its mission in space exploration. In a biography written by Margot Lee Shetterly, featured on NASA’s website, Johnson cited the calculations that helped synch Project Apollo’s Lunar Module with the lunar-orbiting Command and Service Module, as her most fulfilling accomplishment. President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor for her contributions to space exploration.

“NASA is deeply saddened by the loss of a leader from our pioneering days, and we send our deepest condolences to the family of Katherine Johnson. 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. 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. Her Presidential Medal of Freedom was a well-deserved recognition,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a press statement.

Bridenstine applauded Johnson for her “courage and leadership.” “We will continue building on her legacy and work tirelessly to increase opportunities for everyone who has something to contribute toward the ongoing work of raising the bar of human potential,” continued Bridenstine in the official release.

“Our NASA family is sad to learn the news that Katherine Johnson passed away this morning at 101 years old. She was an American hero and her pioneering legacy will never be forgotten,” said Bridenstine.

‘Hidden Figures’ Katherine Johnson played instrumental role in U.S. space exploration