NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson Passes Away

Alex Herman, Sports Recorder

It’s the near-end of Black History Month and the African-American community lost an important hero with a pioneering legacy. Katherine Johnson, also known as Katherine Goble, passed away on February 24, 2020 at the age of 101. She was a mathematician who was known for making astonishing calculations of rocket trajectories and earth orbits for NASA’s early space missions. She wasn’t just known for making calculations in space, but she also was the first woman in the Flight Research Division to receive credit for a research report she worked on for detailing equations describing an orbital spaceflight. Katherine retired from NASA in 1986, after  more than three decades of service. At the time she said, “I loved going to work every single day.”

Before her NASA career, Katherine attended West Virginia University where she would become one of only three black students offered admission to the university, along with two other men. She went on to enroll in a graduate math program but shortly after she left to start a family with her then husband, James Goble.

Katherine was given two awards in her career. Barack Obama awarded her with the Presidential Medal Of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, in 2015. Four years later, she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. By July 2019, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held for a NASA facility in West Virginia that was reintroduced as the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility. So  you could say Katherine had pretty big accomplishments!

Katherine being awarded by Barack Obama.

Katherine helped pave the way for the U.S. in space during a time of great discrimination. “Her strength of character, bravery and mastery of mathematics helped America push beyond inequality to accomplish what some thought impossible,” NASA Director Clayton Turner said. “Her life will inspire Americans for generations to come.”