It may be hard to believe, but the story of this West Virginia woman’s life is about to become a major motion picture.
But it’s actually not that surprising given the life the White Sulphur Springs native has lived.
It was Katherine Johnson’s math skills that helped launch John Glen into orbit—and her incredible story is at the center of a new movie.
The film, “Hidden Figures,” set to be released January 6, 2017.
“Hidden Figures” is the “incredible untold story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson – brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.”
It represented “a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race, and galvanized the world.”
And it’s now time to recognize “the visionary trio who crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big,” according to a studio release.
Johnson, always loved numbers but had no way of knowing her passion would mean she’d literally reach for the stars as a NASA mathematician.
Born in 1918, she was a high school freshman at age 10. Her father drove his family 120 miles to Institute, West Virginia, where she could continue her education through high school. She skipped grades, graduating from high school at 14 and college at 18.
Before computers, Johnson was hired to perform this function using her exceptional mathematical skills.
“As a computer, she calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in space. Even after NASA began using electronic computers, John Glenn requested that she personally recheck the calculations made by the new computers before his flight aboard Friendship 7 – the mission on which he became the first American to orbit the Earth,” according to NASA.
She continued her work with NASA until 1986.
NASA officials aren’t shy about her contributions.
“Her calculations proved as critical to the success of the Apollo Moon landing program and the start of the Space Shuttle program, as they did to those first steps on the country’s journey into space.”
President Barack Obama agreed, and on Nov. 24, 2015, he presented her with the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“Not bad, for a little girl from West Virginia, who coincidentally (or maybe not) was born on Aug. 26: Women’s Equality Day,” NASA said.