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Local News

Famed NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson has died at the age of 101

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Wikipedia
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Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal winner Katherine Johnson

Johnson was featured in the movie "Hidden Figures," which told the story of African American women who played key roles at NASA during the space race.  She died Monday, according to an announcement from NASA Admninistrator Jim Bridenstine.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted that Johnson was an American hero.  He said her "pioneering legacy" will never be forgotten.  Johnson received the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2015.

During her 35-year career at NASA and its predecessor, she earned a reputation for mastering complex manual calculations and helped pioneer the use of computers to perform the tasks. The space agency noted her "historical role as one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist".

Johnson's work included calculating trajectories, launch windows and emergency return paths for Project Mercury spaceflights, including those for astronauts Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and John Glenn, the first American in orbit, and rendezvous paths for the Apollo Lunar Module and command module on flights to the Moon. Her calculations were also essential to the beginning of the Space Shuttle program, and she worked on plans for a mission to Mars. In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson as a lead character in the 2016 film Hidden Figures.

In 2019, Johnson was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. (Wikipedia)