Spacecraft named for ‘Hidden Figures’ mathematician Katherine Johnson arrives on ISS

A Spacecraft Named For ‘Hidden Figures’ Mathematician Katherine Johnson Has Arrived on the International Space Station

Katherine Johnson has been named in honor of Katherine Johnson, a Black NASA mathematician, who played a critical role in the success of the first U.S. crewed spaceflight, Mercury-Atlas 6 mission. The S.S. Katherine Johnson arrived on February 22, 2021, and will be at the International Space Station until May 2021, disposing of a thousand pounds of trash along the way.

The spacecraft took 8,000 pounds of cargo in tow and was launched on February 20, 2021, from a NASA facility in Virginia. It carried a massive amount of science and research, crew supplies, and vehicle hardware that will assist researchers there in numerous investigations. “Why astronauts experience muscle weakening in microgravity, how they sleep and such other questions are going to be explored, along with advanced computing and upgrades to clean water and air systems.

The spacecraft bears the name of Johnson, who also inspired the 2016 film “Hidden Figures,” which is an “honor”, said Adi Boulos, the lead NASA flight director for the mission. Johnson died last year at age 101. Her work went largely unrecognized until the release of “Hidden Figures”.

The pioneering mathematician was part of NASA’s “Computer pool,” a group of mathematicians whose data powered the agency’s first successful space mission. She was then soon transferred to ‘Flight Research Division’, where she worked for several years. In Alan Shepherd’s 1961 mission, the first American human spaceflight, she was tasked with performing trajectory analysis. She co-authored a paper on the safety of orbital landing in 1960 – the first time a woman in the Flight Research Division received credit for a report. 

Johnson’s work was also instrumental in mapping the moon’s surface ahead of the 1969 landing and played a role in the safe return of the Apollo 13 astronauts. She then retired in 1986 from her great career. 

“As a Black woman, Katherine Johnson shattered race and gender barriers, to live out her dreams and become a pivotal part of this country’s young space program,” Boulos lastly added in a statement.




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