NASA says Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who worked on NASA’s early space missions and was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in the film Hidden Figures, about pioneering black female aerospace workers, has died.
In a Monday morning tweet, the space agency said it celebrates her 101 years of life and her legacy of excellence and breaking down racial and social barriers.
Johnson was one of the so-called “computers” who calculated rocket trajectories and earth orbits by hand during NASA’s early years.
Until 1958, Johnson and other black women worked in a racially segregated computing unit at what is now called Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Their work was the focus of the Oscar-nominated 2016 film.
In 1961, Johnson worked on the first mission to carry an American into space. In 1962, she verified computer calculations that plotted John Glenn’s earth orbits.