NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Northrop Grumman has named its NG-15 Cygnus spacecraft after NASA mathematician and Newport News resident Katherine Johnson.
It is the company’s tradition to name each Cygnus spacecraft after an individual who has played a pivotal role in human spaceflight.
Johnson overcame barriers of race and gender, and whose work was critical in sending the first Americans to space. Johnson’s hand-written calculations were critical for John Glenn’s successful orbital mission around the Earth.
Officials at Northrop Grumman say they are proud to celebrate Johnson’s “endlessly perseverant spirit.”
Johnson is most well-known for her work behind John Glenn’s orbital mission around the Earth. Glenn specifically requested that Johnson run the computer’s calculations by hand to proofread its work, saying “if she says they’re good, then I’m ready to go.”
Johnson went on to contribute valuable calculations for the Apollo 11 lunar landing, and authored or coauthored 26 papers during her time at NASA.
In 1986, after working at Langley for 33 years, Johnson retired. In 2015, at age 97, Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, the highest honor for American civilians.
Johnson passed away on Feb. 24, 2020 at the age of 101. Her work at NASA quite literally launched Americans into space, and her legacy continues to inspire young black women every day.