Kuiper rests his head on a NASA technical report.

Katherine Johnson

“The early trajectory was a parabola, and it was easy to predict where it would be at any point. Early on, when they said they wanted the capsule to come down at a certain place, they were trying to compute when it should start. I said, ‘Let me do it. You tell me when you want it and where you want it to land, and I’ll do it backwards and tell you when to take off.’ That was my forte.” Katherine Johnson, NASA mathematician, 2008

Kuiper is cuddled up to the first report co-authored by a woman at NASA, “Determination of azimuth angle at burnout for placing a satellite over a selected Earth position.” It was published in September 1960.

If you haven’t seen the movie¬†#HiddenFigures, we can’t recommend it highly enough!! It tells the true story of three black women who were instrumental to the Space Race. Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan were three important women out the hundreds of extraordinary women at NASA who made space travel possible.

Katherine Johnson started college when she was just 15, and graduated at 18 with dual degrees in math and French. After college, she was hired by NACA (the National Advisory Commitee for Aeronautics, which would later become NASA) as a “computer,” one of the women who performed calculations for the engineers. She began to attract attention by asking questions. As a result of her persistence, she was the first woman to be pulled to work on other programs.

Katherine’s career at NASA spanned 33 years. In that time, she calculated the launch trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and also worked on John Glenn’s orbital flight, the Apollo 11 moon landing, and the space shuttle program. Her work also helped get Apollo 13’s crew home safely. And, like in the movie, John Glenn really did ask for her specifically to double check the numbers before his flight.¬†#womenofhistory

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