Now in theaters, Hidden Figures, is a riveting story of some of the unknown people responsible for making John Glenn’s historic first flight into space a success. In a screenplay by Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder, we are taken back in time to an era when blacks were discriminated against and not treated fairly. Blacks and whites had to use different restrooms, water fountains, attend different schools and sit in the back of the bus. In this movie we see the struggle that blacks went through everyday. Katherine Johnson, a mathematician for NASA, was one of these people. She was often treated unfairly during her career. The actress who plays Katherine Johnson, Taraji P. Henson, does an amazing job portraying Ms. Johnson and highlighting her many challenges and accomplishments.
Katherine Johnson was born on August 26,1918, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Katherine loved math. She started high school at age ten and graduated at age fourteen. After high school Katherine went to West Virginia State College and took all the math courses available to her. In 1952 she heard that women were being hired as human computers. She applied for the position, quit her job as a math teacher and started working for NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
During Johnson’s time at NASA she calculated trajectories. Trajectories are the paths of flying objects that send rockets into space and put astronauts on the moon. She also had to solve advanced engineering problems for designing, testing and flying planes and spacecraft. Soon she was selected to be with a group of white men and women to explore the possibility of space flight. Johnson now had a new job to do. She had to determine the exact path a spacecraft would take from takeoff to touchdown. To do this she had to understand projectile motion, a curved path of an object in the air. Even though Katherine was brilliant she had to sit apart from white men and women who did the same job. She wasn’t treated equally or with much respect for a long time. But everyone soon realized that they needed her and her bright mind so she was finally respected by her peers. Katherine always got her calculations correct. In fact, Katherine was selected to check the calculations done by actual computers before John Glenn went into space. Later, seeing that it would work, the mission went into play and was a success.
Katherine stayed at NASA until1986 when she retired. Katherine is now 98 years old and considers her work at NASA her biggest accomplishment. In 2015, Katherine was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. People still talk about her today for her amazing work and thank her for her efforts in supporting NASA and John Glenn in their missions. Her amazing story is told in the movie, Hidden Figures.
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