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Katherine G. Johnson was born on this date in 1918. She was a Black physicist, space scientist, and mathematician.
She was born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and was trained as a mathematician and physicist at West Virginia State University. Johnson worked for NASA with manned and unmanned orbital mission tracking teams. She was an Aerospace Technologist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia. She has worked on challenging problems of interplanetary trajectories, space navigation, and the orbits of spacecraft.
The spacecraft includes the Earth Resources Satellite, which has helped locate underground minerals and other earth resources. Ms. Johnson analyzed data gathered by tracking stations worldwide during the lunar orbital missions--Apollo moon missions. Later, she studied new navigation procedures to determine more practical ways to track manned and unmanned space missions. For her pioneering work in navigation problems, she received the Group Achievement Award presented to NASA's Lunar Spacecraft and Operations team.
Johnson received the Group Achievement Award, NASA's Lunar Spacecraft, and Operations. Johnson was given an Honorary Doctor of Laws, SUNY Farmingdale (1998) and West Virginia State College Outstanding Alumnus of the Year (1999). In 2015, President Obama included Johnson on a list of 17 Americans to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The following year, principal production began for Hidden Figures, a movie about Johnson and her Black colleagues at NASA, based on the non-fiction book of the same name. The movie was set for release in December. Also in 2016, the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility was formally dedicated at the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. This occurred on the 55th anniversary of Alan Shepard's historic rocket launch and splashdown, which Johnson helped make possible.
Johnson was included in the list of "BBC 100 Women," a list of 100 inspiring and influential women from around the globe. In 2017 she was a central figure in the Academy-nominated film Hidden Figures. Katherine Johnson, one of the NASA mathematicians, died on February 24, 2020. She was 101.