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BTSG Celebrates Katherine Johnson

February is Black History Month, and at BTSG we are taking time to honor and celebrate the achievements and contributions of African Americans throughout history. One individual who deserves special recognition during this month is Katherine Johnson, a brilliant mathematician whose work at NASA shattered barriers and paved the way for future generations.

Katherine Johnson was born on August 26, 1918, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. She displayed an early aptitude for mathematics and showed a relentless curiosity about the world around her. Despite the racial and gender biases of the time, Katherine’s determination to pursue her passion for mathematics never wavered.

In 1953, Katherine Johnson joined NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), as one of the few African American women in the organization. Her exceptional skills in mathematics soon caught the attention of NASA’s space program. Johnson played a vital role in numerous historic missions, including John Glenn’s orbital flight in 1962. Her calculations were so trusted that Glenn personally requested that she verify the trajectory and safety of his mission, famously stating, “Get the girl to check the numbers… If she says they’re good, then I’m ready to go.”

Katherine Johnson’s work was instrumental in sending astronauts safely into space and back to Earth. Her calculations were critical in determining launch and landing trajectories, orbital paths, and rendezvous points for space missions. Her contributions extended beyond the groundbreaking Mercury and Apollo programs, as she continued to be an invaluable asset to NASA throughout her career.

Johnson’s legacy goes far beyond her remarkable achievements in the field of mathematics and aerospace engineering. She broke down barriers of gender and race, showing that brilliance knows no boundaries. Her story inspired countless young women and people of color to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

In 2015, Katherine Johnson’s incredible journey was brought to the forefront with the release of the film “Hidden Figures,” which depicted the untold story of her and her fellow African American female colleagues at NASA. The film shed light on the challenges they faced and the immense contributions they made to the space program.

Katherine Johnson’s numerous accolades include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to her by President Barack Obama in 2015, and the naming of a research facility at NASA’s Langley Research Center in her honor. These honors reflect the profound impact she had on the world of science and the importance of her legacy.

As BTSG celebrates Black History Month, we must remember and honor trailblazers like Katherine Johnson, whose dedication and brilliance helped to shape the course of history. Her story serves as a reminder that barriers can be broken, and dreams can be achieved, regardless of one’s background. Katherine Johnson’s life and achievements continue to inspire generations of young minds to reach for the stars and to never give up on their dreams.