NASA Mathematician and Racial Trailblazer Katherine Johnson Dies at Age 101

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. Credits: NASA

SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL –NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson who calculated critical flight trajectories that helped launch America’s first astronauts safely into space and back including Alan Shepard and John Glenn and later helped land NASA’s Apollo 11 astronauts on the Moon and who was also a legendary trailblazing leader in civil rights, racial and gender equality passed away today, Feb. 24, at the phenomenal age of 101.

NASA and all space enthusiast’s mourn the passing of Katherine Johnson and her trailblazing “quest for racial equality, contributor to our nation’s first triumphs in human spaceflight and champion of STEM education, Katherine G. Johnson.”

Here is a statement from Administrator Jim Bridenstine on the passing of NASA legend Katherine Johnson who worked for the agency from 1953 to 1986 at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

“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.

“At NASA we will never forget her courage and leadership and the milestones we could not have reached without her. 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.”

Katherine Johnson’s life and legendary accomplishments went mostly unknown to the public until her they were highlighted in the bestselling book “Hidden Figures” and the hit 2016 movie of the same name.

She was portrayed by actress Taraji P. Henson. The musical score was created by Pharrell Williams.

Former NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson is seen after President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The movie ‘Hidden Figures’ is outstanding and I highly recommend you see it – more than once!!

 

Cast and crew of ‘Hidden Figures at KSC Press Site Briefing. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

 

Read this NASA Statement on the life and contributions of Katherine Johnson:

“NASA mathematician, trailblazer in the quest for racial equality, contributor to our nation’s first triumphs in human spaceflight and champion of STEM education, Katherine G. Johnson stands among NASA’s most inspirational figures. Born Aug. 26, 1918, in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, Johnson went on to graduate from West Virginia State College with highest honors in 1937. After attending graduate school and working as a public school teacher, she was hired in 1953 by what today is known as NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, but then was called the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory. She retired from the center in 1986. Johnson’s accomplishments at Langley were highlighted in the bestselling book “Hidden Figures,” and the hit movie of the same name.”

Katherine Johnson was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian award – by President Barack Obama on Nov. 24, 2015, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.

“Johnson’s computations have influenced every major space program from Mercury through the Shuttle program. Johnson was hired as a research mathematician at the Langley Research Center with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the agency that preceded NASA, after they opened hiring to African-Americans and women.”

“Johnson exhibited exceptional technical leadership and is known especially for her calculations of the 1961 trajectory for Alan Shepard’s flight (first American in space), the 1962 verification of the first flight calculation made by an electronic computer for John Glenn’s orbit (first American to orbit the earth), and the 1969 Apollo 11 trajectory to the moon. In her later NASA career, Johnson worked on the Space Shuttle program and the Earth Resources Satellite and encouraged students to pursue careers in science and technology fields.”

Watch this NASA video about Katherine Johnson with commentary by past NASA Administrator Charles Bolden:

Video Caption: NASA Mathematician, Recipient of Nations Highest Civilian Honor. Credit: NASA

 

 

Katherine Johnson speaks with astronaut Leland Melvin during a NASA STEM education event.
Credits: Katherine Johnson
Actress Octavia Spencer, left, who plays Dorothy Vaughan in the film “Hidden Figures” and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, right, greets NASA “human computer” Katherine Johnson, at a reception to honor NASA’s “human computers” on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, at the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton, VA. Afterward, the guests attended a premiere of “Hidden Figures” a film which stars Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, the African American mathematician, physicist, and space scientist, who calculated flight trajectories for John Glenn’s first orbital flight in 1962. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

 

Cast and crew of ‘Hidden Figures’ at KSC Press Site Briefing. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Mars 2020 and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent ULA and SpaceX launches including Crew and Cargo Dragon, Solar Orbiter, In-Flight Abort and Starlink at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
………….
Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

Ken has created hundreds of widely published Mars rover mosaics and lectures also about NASA’s Mars rovers

Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Mar 4-6: 7 PM, Quality Inn Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, FL. “SpaceX CRS-20, IFA and Starlink launch, ULA Solar Orbiter launch.” Free. In hotel lobby. Photos for sale

Cast and crew of ‘Hidden Figures’ at KSC Press Site Briefing. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
Ken Kremer

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.