February is Black History Month. Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson (born August 26, 1918) is an American mathematician and one of the first African-American women to work as a scientist at NASA. Her “calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights.” Throughout her career at NASA, Johnson was known for the easy mastery of “complex manual calculations” and her pioneering efforts concerning the use of computerized calculations. Her life and work are featured by the movie, “Hidden Figures.
Johnson’s calculations were essential to the development of the space program. Her significant work included the calculation of launch windows, flight trajectories and emergency return paths for NASA’s Project Mercury flights. She was responsible for the calculations attendant to the spaceflights of Alan Shepard, John Glenn, the Apollo Lunar Module, the Moon flight space modules, and plans for missions to Mars.Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 by President Barak Obama, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2019 by President Trump.