Established in 1958, NASA's formative years occurred in the 1960s — a decade marked by racial division and women’s oppression. But despite the political turmoil of the time, African-American women were already breaking barriers in the early days of the space program, helping to get the first human space missions off the ground.
Johnson has done crucial number crunching for NASA
A new film Hidden Figures highlights the stories of three of these women — Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson — who worked for NASA when the agency was just getting underway. Notable among the three is Johnson, a brilliant mathematician who did some crucial number crunching for NASA’s earliest programs. Johnson, played by Taraji P. Henson in the film, is known for calculating the trajectory for the flight of Alan Shepard, the first American in space.
Hidden Figures tells the story of Johnson’s involvement in the 1962 spaceflight of John Glenn, who became the first American to orbit the Earth. The calculations for Glenn’s flight had been made by NASA’s first electronic computers — but Glenn requested that Johnson double check the calculations before he flew. Johnson went on to work with computers, though, doing key work for both the Apollo program and the early Space Shuttle program. Johnson eventually left NASA in 1986 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama last year.
Check out the trailer for Hidden Figures, which will immediately inspire you to fill out your employment application for NASA.