NASA Names Facility After ‘Hidden Figure’ Katherine Johnson
Donaldson Collection/Getty Images
NASA research mathematician Katherine Johnson’s trailblazing brilliance was once obscured from the world. But, she will never be hidden from history again – not only because there is a best-selling novel and movie detailing her contributions that broke racial and gender barriers – but also because NASA has finally honored her by renaming a facility after her. USA Today reports that the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia, received its new name over the weekend after being pushed in a congressional bill that was signed into law by President Donald Trump in December. The facility houses programs that contribute “to the safety and success of NASA’s highest-profile missions by assuring the software on those missions performs correctly,” according to NASA.

“I am thrilled we are honoring Katherine Johnson in this way as she is a true American icon who overcame incredible obstacles and inspired so many,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said according to USA Today. “It’s a fitting tribute to name the facility that carries on her legacy of mission-critical computations in her honor.”

Working her way through the ranks of NASA in the racially segregated 1950s and 1960s, Johnson was one of the “colored computers” who worked on calculations for several space missions in a time when computers were not trusted. Most famously she verified the results given by computers to calculate the orbit for John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission – at Glenn’s own insistence. Glenn demanded that engineers “get the girl” – that is Johnson – to verify the numbers before the mission. That flight ended in success, making Glenn the first American to orbit Earth. Johnson was also behind the calculations of Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 mission the year before, which made him the first American in space. Johnson’s contributions largely went unnoticed until 2016 when the best-selling book, followed shortly by the movie – led everyone through her courageous and groundbreaking story. Johnson, who turned 100 in August, was thankfully still present when her accolades started rolling in. In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian honor in the United States. In 2017, NASA dedicated a computational research facility in her honor, and in December she was inducted into NASA’s Paul E. Garber First Flight Society Shrine, USA Today notes.


Loading the player...