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How a Hampton Roads legend played a pivotal role in the Apollo 11 mission

Posted at 4:30 AM, Jul 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-16 23:13:56-04

HAMPTON, Va. – Legendary Hampton Roads mathematician Katherine Johnson calculated the trajectory for the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, marking the first manned mission to land on the moon 50 years ago Tuesday.

According to NASA, when asked to name her greatest contribution to space exploration, Johnson referenced the work and calculations she did that helped synch Project Apollo’s Lunar Lander with the moon-orbiting Command and Service Module.

Her trailblazing work at NASA Langley in Hampton was featured in the 2017 movie “Hidden Figures,” which told the story of the groundbreaking work of black women mathematicians at NASA amid segregation.

According to NASA, Johnson also calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard’s historic mission as the first American in space. She also confirmed, by hand, the launch calculations for John Glenn’s mission around the Earth.

Johnson’s work at NASA earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 from President Barack Obama.  In 2016, NASA dedicated a new Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility at the Langley Research Center.