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There’s sad news to report about a black history maker and NASA mathematician. Katherine Johnson, the “Hidden Figure” who was played by Taraji P. Henson in the 2016 hit film by that name, has unfortunately passed away. The STEM pioneer’s death was confirmed by NASA who shared the news on social media and rightfully deemed the 101 -year-old a “hero.”

Prior to her passing NASA announced the building of the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia. The building is used to contribute to “to the safety and success of NASA’s highest-profile missions by assuring the software on those missions performs correctly.”

Johnson worked for NASA for 35 years and as a “human computer” verified the numbers by hand to calculate the orbit for John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission. As a part of the preflight checklist, Glenn asked engineers to “get the girl”—Katherine Johnson—to run the same numbers for him. “If she says they’re good,’” Katherine Johnson remembers the astronaut saying, “then I’m ready to go,” reports NASA.

She was also one of just three black students to integrate West Virginia’s graduate schools and in 2015 she awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. In November she was chosen to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor presented by Congress.

R.I.H. Ms. Katherine Johnson.



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