Space shuttle named after mathematician Katherine Johnson launches on anniversary of historic 1962 mission
UPDATED 7:55 PM PT – Saturday, February 20, 2021
NASA launched the S.S. Katherine Johnson space shuttle, which was named after the female mathematician featured in the movie “Hidden Figures.” On Saturday, the space station supply ship rocketed into orbit in Virginia on the 59th anniversary of astronaut John Glenn’s historic launch.
The S.S. Katherine Johnson contained roughly 8,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station. The rocket launched just 100 miles from NASA’s Langley Research Center, the office where Johnson worked.
Johnson’s expertise in mathematics contributed to the success of Glenn’s launch on February 20, 1962, when he became the first American to orbit planet Earth. The rocket’s trajectory was primarily calculated by computers, but Glenn asked for Johnson to check the orbital calculations by hand.
The launch also occurred close to the one-year anniversary of Johnson’s death. She was 101-years-old. Johnson’s math also assisted NASA in sending astronauts to the moon and back.
“Her work was to take a Monroe or Freedom calculator,” Johnson’s daughter, Joylette Goble, said. “And do the big equations, which could be a page long.”
The rocket is expected to reach the International Space Station on Monday and marks the second delivery the International Space Station received this week. According to reports, a Russian capsule pulled up last week with apples and oranges amongst other supplies.