Space station honours ”Hidden Figures” mathematician

Katherine Johnson’s hand-written calculations helped launch the first Americans into space

By   |  Published: 21st Feb 2021  4:19 pm

Cape Canaveral: A space station supply ship named after Katherine Johnson, the Black NASA mathematician featured in the movie “Hidden Figures” rocketed into orbit on the 59th anniversary of John Glenn’s historic launch.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus capsule — dubbed the S.S. Katherine Johnson — should reach the International Space Station on February 22 following its launch from Virginia’s eastern shore.

Johnson died almost exactly a year ago at age 101.

“Mrs. Johnson was selected for her hand-written calculations that helped launch the first Americans into space, as well as her accomplishments in breaking glass ceiling after glass ceiling as a Black woman,” Frank DeMauro, a Northrop Grumman vice president, said.

Johnson’s numbers contributed to the February 20, 1962 flight in which Glenn became the first American to orbit the world. The film, released in late 2016, depicted the effort put forth by Johnson and other Black women at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, during the early days of space exploration. Langley is 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the launch site at Wallops Island.

A Russian capsule pulled up Wednesday with apples and oranges, among other things.

“Oh, we love fresh food!” tweeted Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi. He noted that the space station flew over Virginia just 10 minutes ahead of Sunday’s launch.

Noguchi and his six American and Russian crewmates can expect more apples once the Cygnus arrives, along with tomatoes, nuts, smoked salmon, Parmesan and cheddar cheeses, caramels and coconut strips.

The capsule also holds 120,000 tiny roundworms for a muscle experiment, as well as off-the-shelf computer equipment to increase data processing speed at the space station.