Katherine Johnson, NASA mathematician depicted in 'Hidden Figures', dies at 101
NASA has revealed that Katherine Johnson, the woman who paved the way for the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth, died this morning at the age of 101, per ABC News.
Her remarkable legacy, along with that of other female African American NASA employees, was immortalized in the movie Hidden Figures in 2016. Johnson was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson.This was Johnson's reaction to the research facility NASA opened in her honor:
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement: "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.
"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."
Johnson began her career at NASA in 1953, a role that led to her calculating the trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in space, long before computers were used.
Prior to becoming the first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn personally asked Johnson to double-check the calculations that computers went on to make.
According to Johnson, Shepard said at the time: "If she says they're good, then I'm ready to go."
To honor her contribution to NASA's legacy, Johnson was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.
Per NPR, Obama said of Johnson's contribution at the time: "In her 33 years at NASA [Johnson] broke the barriers of race and gender, showing generations of young people that everyone can excel in math and science and reach for the stars."
Bridenstine said concluded his statement by saying: "We will never forget her courage and leadership and the milestones we could not have reached without her."