House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas shared a statement honoring Katherine Johnson, who passed away today.
“I was saddened to hear of Katherine Johnson’s passing," Lucas said. "We’ve lost a pioneer and a pivotal mind behind America’s success in the Space Race. Her work was crucial to the success of John Glenn’s first orbit of the Earth. The achievements of Katherine and the other Hidden Figures of the Space Race were all the more impressive given the challenges they faced as women and minorities. I’m so glad that Chairwoman Johnson and I were able to introduce and pass a law to honor her with the Congressional Gold Medal last year. Her legacy will live on at NASA and for generations of Americans inspired by her to pursue careers in STEM.”
Johnson was a NASA mathematician who calculated trajectories for multiple NASA space missions including Alan Shepard’s historic Freedom 7 mission and John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission to orbit the earth. During her time at NASA, she became the first woman recognized as an author of a report from the Flight Research Division.
Johnson's work was highlighted in Margot Lee Shetterly's book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.
Lucas joined House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson in introducing legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Katherine Johnson, along with Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, Christine Darden, and all the women computers, mathematicians, and engineers at NASA, and its precursor organization the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), who devoted their talents in service to the United States from the 1930s to the 1970s through World War II, the Space Race, and the Cold War. H.R. 1396, the “Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act became law and the Congressional Gold Medals were awarded in December 2019.