About Our Ship's Namesake

Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson . . .

(born August 26, 1918) was an American mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights. During her 35-year career at NASA and its predecessor, she earned a reputation for mastering complex manual calculations and helped pioneer the use of computers to perform the tasks. The space agency noted her "historical role as one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist".

Johnson's work included calculating trajectories, launch windows and emergency return paths for Project Mercury spaceflights (see picture above), including those for astronauts Alan Shepard the first American in space, and John Glenn, the first American in orbit. As well as, rendezvous paths for the Apollo Lunar Module and command module on flights to the Moon. Her calculations were also essential to the beginning of the Space Shuttle program, and she worked on plans for a mission to Mars. She was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson as a lead character in the film Hidden Figures (2016).

President Barack Obama presented Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom one of 17 Americans so honored, on November 24, 2015. She was cited as a pioneering example of African-American women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). In August 2018, West Virginia State University established a STEM scholarship in honor of Johnson and erected a life-size statue of her on campus. On May 5, 2016, a new 40,000-square-foot building was named "Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility" and formally dedicated at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. (see picture above) ,The facility officially opened its doors on September 22, 2017.

"Loss of a beautiful mind..." (see clip below) NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson passed away on February 24, 2020. She was 101 years old.