Celebrating the legacy of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson

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NASA research mathematician Katherine Johnson is pictured at her desk at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Born August 26, 1918 in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, Johnson worked at Langley from 1953 until her retirement in 1986. During her years at NASA, Johnson made many technical contributions essential to flight missions space, including calculating the trajectory of Astronaut Alan Shepard’s historic flight in 1961, when Shepard became the first American to reach space. Credit: NASA

originally from West Virginia and ">Nasa Mathematician Katherine Johnson would be 103 this year on the same day as Women’s Equality Day, and many who work at her namesake facility in Fairmont see a fitting connection.

Today, NASA’s Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility bears her name and heritage, housing a program that ensures that NASA’s security and critical systems and software will operate reliably, securely and securely. Many women from diverse backgrounds are currently part of this program and look to Johnson’s life and achievements as part of their work.

Pioneer, contribution, extraordinary and perseverance are just a few words some IV&V staff have used to describe their thoughts on Johnson.

NASA Katherine Johnson IVV

NASA’s Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility. Credit: NASA

“She was a bit of an overachieving college graduate and making her way into a male-dominated world of engineering. She has earned the respect of her managers and astronauts, ”Kathy Malnick, senior systems engineer, said of Johnson.

Malnick, who works on the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), draws inspiration from Johnson’s contribution to another mission on a human scale.

“I use my own skills, talents and expertise to help keep astronauts safe on CCP missions, bringing them into space and home, just like Katherine did in the early days of human spaceflight,” he said. she said, adding that Johnson’s contributions to NASA were key to early spaceflight and all that followed.

Katherine johnson

Portrait Katherine G. Johnson. Credit: NASA

Johnson’s extraordinary abilities and dedication to performing the highest quality work for major NASA missions stand out to many, including Space Launch System (SLS) IV&V Project Manager Joelle Spagnuolo-Loretta.

“Johnson wanted his results to prove his worth, and they certainly did! She didn’t focus on her challenges or how she might have been treated. Her determination, perseverance and excellent work have proven their worth, ”she said. “These things were noticed and made her highly regarded by others – regardless of her gender or race.”

Her inspiration goes beyond working for NASA and STEM for many, according to Jotwyla Moore of the IV&V Software Assurance Tools team.

“Katherine Johnson’s life was multiple. She was talented but graceful. Capable, but clogged, ”she said. “The fact that she was a mother, wife and friend who was involved in her church and community also makes me realize that other aspects of life don’t have to be sacrificed to do a great job for you. employer.”

Today, NASA is an organization that provides spaces and support for women in STEM fields and does not turn a blind eye to the fact that there is still work to be done, according to Nelva Cary, senior analyst of IV&V systems. of Exploration Ground Systems (EGS). . And you only have to look at Johnson’s work to know that it can be done.

“I admire Johnson’s commitment to excellence and his ability to calculate the trajectory of Alan Shepard’s first space flight,” she said. “She was a genius despite the racism and sexism. I wonder what she could have accomplished without these barriers.

These are obstacles that Johnson certainly faced, and many women still face today in different ways. Women’s Equality Day is an opportunity to recognize the progress women have made in the United States and beyond, and to continue to fight these and other obstacles.

With an eye always on innovation, inclusion and progress, NASA’s IV&V program remembers Johnson and her legacy while celebrating Women’s Equality Day.


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