Black History Moment 

“Hidden Figures” mathematician Katherine Johnson was the guest of honor at a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday to dedicate a new NASA research building named in her honor! At the ceremony at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, the 99-year-old Johnson was honored for her work as one of the “human computers” who made early space flight, including the first moon landing, possible. Margot Lee Shetterly, the author of the “Hidden Figures” book which brought Johnson’s contributions much wider recognition, spoke at the event, observing: “At every fork, her talent, her hard work and her character pulled her toward her destiny. At every turn, she made a choice to become the protagonist in her own story and then of ours.” To Johnson, she said, “Telling your story has been an honor. You work changed our history and your history has changed our future.”
During her 33-year career at NASA, during which she was forced to overcome both gender and racial barriers, Johnson’s skills in celestial navigation were renowned. She calculated — by hand — the flight trajectories for a number of historic missions, including the Alan Shepard’s space voyage aboard Freedom 7 in 1961 and the Apollo 11 flight to the Moon in 1969. Shetterly observed in her speech how Johnson and her colleagues were integral to America’s journey into space: “We are living in a present that they willed into existence with their pencils, their slide rules, their mechanical calculating machines and, of course, their brilliant minds.”

Over the past few years, Johnson’s contributions to America’s space program have become more widely known to the public thanks to President Barack Obama’s presenting her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 and the release of the blockbuster “Hidden Figures” book and film last year. When Johnson was asked how she felt about a building being named after her, she laughed: “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… little did I think it would go this far.”

To read more about the dedication of the new Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility on NASA’s website, visit https://go.nasa.gov/2fHYelS

Katherine Johnson is the subject of a new early chapter book for ages 6 to 8 at https://www.amightygirl.com/katherine-johnson

The book on which “Hidden Figures” is based is also available in both adult and youth editions — to check out the “Hidden Figures: Young Readers’ Edition” for ages 8 to 13, visit https://www.amightygirl.com/hidden-figures-young-readers 

To order the adult edition of “Hidden Figures,” which is also recommended for teen readers, visit http://amzn.to/2j3PS8k 

The inspiring film “Hidden Figures” is now available on DVD at https://www.amightygirl.com/hidden-figures-film or can be streamed online at http://amzn.to/2w628gR

Johnson is also one of 50 pioneering women of science featured in the stunning illustrated biography, “Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers,” for ages 9 and up at https://www.amightygirl.com/women-in-science 

For books for children and teens about more real-life female scientists whose stories should be more widely known, check out our blog post, “50 Books to Inspire Science-Loving Mighty Girls,” at https://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=13914

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