West Virginia legislators haven’t agreed on much this session.
But unity will be the name of the game today in Charleston as Republicans and Democrats take time to honor a trailblazing West Virginian.
Legislators want Congress and NASA to join them in paying tribute to Dr. Katherine Johnson.
She’s a White Sulphur Springs native, who was the centerpiece of a major motion picture released in January.
“Hidden Figures” brought to the big screen the story about how she and two other African-American women helped launch astronaut John Glenn into space. The visionary trio are credited with crossing gender and race lines during their time at NASA that helped turn about the nation’s Space Race.
Johnson, 98, worked as a mathematician for the space agency for more than 30 years. Within a few weeks of arriving at the Langley Research Center she began working in the Spacecraft Dynamics Branch of the Flight Dynamics and Control Division.
Her mathematical skills during her NASA tenure were crucial to every American space program in the 20th century, according to officials.
Johnson calculated the trajectory for the first manned spaceflight by an American in 1961; verified the first flight calculation made by a computer for the first orbit of Earth by an American; and worked on Apollo 11 in 1969 before later working on additional shuttle and satellite programs.
That’s why state lawmakers are not only honoring her, but also asking federal officials to do the same.
A bipartisan bill urges Congress and NASA to name the NASA Independent Verification and Validation at Fairmont for Johnson.
The Clerk of the House of Delegates will forward a copy of the resolution honoring Johnson to the President and Secretary of the U.S. Senate, the Speaker and Clerk of the House of Representatives and to members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation.
President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2015.
Her daughter, Katherine Moore, will be present today’s legislative action in Charleston.