When you think of NASA, names like John Glenn, Alan Shepard and Neil Armstrong come to mind. But the brains responsible for getting those men into space often go overlooked.
The new movie, “Hidden Figures” uncovers the untold story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson – three African-American women and NASA geniuses whose work helped propel the U.S. to the head of the space race in the 1960s.
These women worked at a time when rights for women, and especially African-American women, were extremely limited in the U.S., yet these women made a lasting impact with their work at NASA.
Dorothy Vaughan started working at Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Virginia in 1943 during the height of WWII. She was a mathematician and became the first African-American woman department head at NASA. She is portrayed by Octavia Spencer in “Hidden Figures.”
Mary Jackson started working at Langley under Vaughan in 1951. After receiving an offer from engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki, Mary Jackson became NASA’s first African-American female engineer. Getting her degree required her to get special permission from the City of Hampton, Virginia to attend classes with white students. She completed the courses and became an engineer in 1958. Janelle Monae plays her in “Hidden Figures.”
Katherine Johnson was a brilliant NASA mathematician and a human computer. She began working for NASA in 1953. John Glenn personally requested that she recheck calcuations made by electronic computers for his revolutionary flight on Friendship 7, which made him the first man to orbit earth. She is played by Taraji P. Henson in “Hidden Figures.”
You can watch “Hidden Figures” in movie theaters everywhere Jan. 6.