Katherine Johnson – Numbers, Boundaries, and Space

It will come as no surprise to you that Katherine Johnson is considered to be an American hero. In 2015, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, for her service. President Barack Obama said: “Katherine G. Johnson refused to be limited by society’s expectations of her gender and race while expanding the boundaries of humanity’s reach.”
She quickly proved that her knowledge of analytic geometry was significant to the work of the department. Johnson herself joked that her colleagues forgot to give her back, but the fact is that the department desperately needed her for its projects. She remained with the division until her retirement in 1986, working on many significant space missions during that time. She helped put the first American into space, worked on the first American orbit of the Earth, and was involved in the well-known Apollo 11 and 13 missions, the latter of which she helped return to Earth safe and sound.
Just two weeks after she began her work at NACA, she was “loaned” to the Flight Research Division. The division needed her to calculate aerodynamic forces on aircrafts. Later, the Research Division was involved in efforts to send a man into space, among other things, and needed help calculating the trajectory of the rocket in the Mercury mission. Johnson ended up working 16-hour days, but loved what she did. On several occasions she said there was never a day she didn’t look forward to going to work.

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