In history, women’s contributions have been overshadowed by men’s, and space exploration is no exception. Women played a crucial role in the space race, but their stories remain unknown to many. One of such inspiring stories is that of Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who helped launch NASA into space.
If you saw a rocket launch, you have Katherine Johnson to thank. Her calculations helped launch the first Americans into space and on the moon. Despite facing gender and racial discrimination, she went ahead to pave the way for future generations. Let’s unveil the story of Katherine Johnson and her untold worth.
The Early Years of Katherine Johnson
Katherine Johnson was born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, on August 26, 1918. Her love for mathematics was evident from a young age, and she graduated high school at 14. She became one of three Black students selected to attend the West Virginia State College, now West Virginia State University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics.
Katherine’s Career Journey at NASA
After teaching at a Black public school in Virginia, Katherine was hired by NASA in 1953 as a human “computer.” Then, she worked at the West Area Computing unit at the Langley Research Center, which was segregated by race and sex.
Her work as a computer aided in developing critical technologies needed for space exploration. She was involved in the Space Shuttle program and the first crewed Orbital Flight by John Glenn in 1962.
The Value of Katherine Johnson’s Work
Katherine’s work was invaluable because she worked in a position that was not held in high standing. Her excellence in mathematics made her part of a team of African American women who went above and beyond to make calculations for successful space missions.
She was behind important calculations of orbital spaceflight and distributed support for all missions in eight years, including the moon landing. She computed analytical geometry trajectories, launch windows, and emergency return paths. She even calculated the projected path of the Apollo 13 mission that helped bring back the astronauts safely.
Challenges Katherine Johnson Faced
Katherine Johnson had to face various challenges, including racial and gender discrimination. These challenges were present daily, and she even experienced having to use a separate restroom from her white colleagues.
Despite the challenges, Johnson persevered and continued to excel in her position. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 for her work during her ten-year tenure with NASA.
Katherine Johnson’s Legacy
Katherine Johnson was a true trailblazer, paving the way for other African American women in mathematics and science. Her work helped shape NASA and made significant contributions to space exploration.
Moreover, her legacy also inspired the blockbuster movie “Hidden Figures,” which tells the story of Johnson and other African American women working for NASA.
Q1. Who is Katherine Johnson?
A1. Katherine Johnson was an African American mathematician who worked for NASA, providing critical calculations that helped launch the first Americans into space and on the moon.
Q2. What did Katherine Johnson do at NASA?
A2. Katherine Johnson’s work at NASA involved computations for the Space Shuttle program, the first crewed Orbital Flight by John Glenn in 1962, and distributed support for all missions in eight years, including the moon landing.
Q3. Why was Katherine Johnson important in NASA?
A3. Katherine’s calculations were invaluable in space exploration because she computed analytical geometry trajectories, launch windows, and emergency return paths. Her contributions helped shape NASA and made significant contributions to space exploration.
Q4. How did Katherine Johnson’s work impact NASA?
A4. Katherine Johnson’s work impacted NASA by providing the critical calculations needed for the success of space missions. Her contributions to space launch paved the way for future space explorations and missions.
Q5. What struggles did Katherine Johnson face while working for NASA?
A5. Katherine Johnson faced struggles like gender and racial discrimination that forced her to work in a segregated position. Despite facing challenges, Johnson persevered and continued to excel in her position.
Q6. What did Katherine Johnson accomplish in her life?
A6. Katherine Johnson accomplished many things in her life, including receiving multiple awards for her work with NASA, writing scientific papers about her calculations, and inspiring future generations of mathematicians and scientists.
Q7. Why is it important to learn about Katherine Johnson?
A7. It is crucial to learn about Katherine Johnson because her contributions to space exploration made significant advancements in the field. She is an example of the excellence and brilliance of African American women in mathematics and science.
Katherine Johnson’s story is one of great accomplishment and perseverance. Despite facing setbacks such as discrimination, she excelled in her profession. Her work was vital to the success of NASA and the space race. It is important to give Katherine Johnson her rightful place in history and remember her contributions to space exploration. Her legacy inspires future generations of mathematicians and scientists to chase their dreams.