Katherine Johnson
Katherine Johnson as she received the Medal of Freedom. NASA/Bill Ingalls
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Happy 98th birthday, Katherine Johnson!

Johnson played a pivotal role in the American space program. She was one of the first African-American women to work at NASA (and the agency’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics). A mathematician, she worked as a “human computer” performing calculations for the Mercury, Apollo, and Shuttle programs. A NASA biography of Johnson says she was so respected by her peers that “John Glenn requested that she personally re-check the calculations made by the new electronic computers before his flight aboard Friendship 7—the mission on which he became the first American to orbit the Earth.”

https://twitter.com/NASA/status/769168858401812480/

The last year or so has seen Johnson get a lot of the recognition she deserves. In November 2015, President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S.’s highest civilian honor. This past May, NASA named a new building after Johnson on the 55th anniversary of John Glenn’s trip into space, since it would not have been possible without her.

In January 2017, Hidden Figures, a movie about Johnson and the other African-American women working as “human computers”, will hit theaters. Taraji P. Henson, who is portraying Johnson, and her castmates had kind words for Johnson on her birthday.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BJlNnz4gmf2/
https://twitter.com/octaviaspencer/status/769245133787234304/
https://twitter.com/Pharrell/status/769234400986804224/

Johnson also received birthday wishes from NASA astronauts both on Earth,

https://twitter.com/astro_g_dogg/status/769195995355680769/

and in space.

https://twitter.com/NASA/status/769161364644372481/

NASA named a bench after Johnson in February, but it is being installed today outside the Virginia Air & Space Center.

https://twitter.com/NASA_Langley/status/769239597108891650/

Thank you and happy birthday, Katherine!

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