Katherine Johnson, who helped to see an American astronaut orbit the Earth for the first time, has opened a new research facility named in her honour.
Johnson, nicknamed the ‘human computer’, was responsible for aiding a mission that saw an American astronaut orbit the Earth for the first time.
99-year-old Katherine Johnson was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in 2017’s Hidden Figures, which celebrated the successes of three women working at NASA, who overcame racism and sexism to help get an astronaut into space.
Johnson, and other African-American NASA workers were subjected to ‘colour-only’ sections, and their work was often under-appreciated by their superiors and white male colleagues.
The mathematics involved in the orbital mission was highly complex, and so astronaut John Glenn insisted Katherine Johnson double check the calculations before he began the mission.
It’s success was seen as a turning point in the space race, marking a significant change in the competition between the US and the Soviet Union in Space.
Upon learning about the research facility named after her, Johnson said she thought NASA were “crazy”.
“You want my honest answer? I think they’re crazy.”
“I was excited at something new, always liked something new, but give credit to everybody who helped. I didn’t do anything alone but try to go to the root of the question and succeeded there.”
The $23 million, 37,000 square foot building will feature over 30 rooms in which research for future missions will take place.
David Bowles, director of Nasa’s Langley Research Centre, explained: “We’re here to honour the legacy of one of the most admired and inspirational people ever associated with Nasa.
“I can’t imagine a better tribute to Mrs Johnson’s character and accomplishments than this building that will bear her name.”
The film went onto become the highest-grossing Best Picture nominee at the Academy Awards, which Terry McAuliffe, the governor of Virginia, referenced to in a press release.
“Thank goodness for the book and movie to come out, so people got to understand what this woman meant to our country.”