Johnson worked at Langley from 1953 until her retirement in 1986, beginning as a research mathematician -- part of a pool of women hired to perform mathematical equations and calculations by hand for engineers. She quickly distinguished herself and was permanently assigned to the branch that would later calculate the launch windows for NASA’s first Project Mercury flights.
Notable accomplishments include her computation, by hand, of the launch window and trajectory for Alan Shepard’s maiden space voyage aboard Freedom 7 in 1961, and verification, also by hand, of calculations made by the first computers for John Glenn's history-making orbit around the Earth in 1962. She also calculated the trajectory for the historic Apollo 11 first moon landing flight in 1969.In January 2017, a big-budget Hollywood movie titled Hidden Figures starring Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons based on the real-life story of Johnson and other Black women who worked for NASA will be released in theaters. See the trailer below:
Happy Birthday Katherine Johnson!