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RIP Katherine Johnson 1918-2020

Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician And An Inspiration For Hidden Figures, Dies

Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who was one of NASA’s human “computers” and an unsung hero of the space agency’s early days, died Monday. She calculated the flight path for America’s first crewed space mission and moon landing, and she was among the women profiled in the book and movie Hidden Figures. She was 101.

Back in the days when computers filled up rooms, Katherine Johnson calculated the flight paths by hand. Even with computers calculating flight paths is not a trivial exercise. She calculated Alan Shepard’s first manned flight in the US program, and at John Glenn’s insistence verified the solution reached by the computers that were coming into use for his first orbital flight. She also worked on the flight path of Apollo 11’s moon landing. From Mercury to the Space Shuttle, Katherine Johnson’s calculations were there. She was a vital part of the NASA manned flight program.