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Katherine Johnson, one of NASA's 'Hidden Figures,' dies at 101

Johnson was a NASA mathematician whose legacy was portrayed in the film 'Hidden Figures.'

Katherine Johnson, mathematician and one of NASA's "Hidden Figures," has died. She was 101. 

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed her death Monday morning. He called Johnson an "American hero" with a "pioneering legacy that will never be forgotten." 

Johnson famously calculated the trajectory of Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 mission in 1961 and was asked to verify the results of electronic computers of the orbit for John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission.

According to NASA, Johnson names calculations that helped synch Project Apollo Lunar Lander as her greatest contribution to space exploration.

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Her life story was dramatized in the book "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and Untold Story of Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race" by Margot Lee Shetterly. The book was later adapted into the 2016 film "Hidden Figures," starring Taraji P. Henson as Johnson. 

Dr. Christine Darden, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson are the other women considered NASA's "Hidden Figures." In November of 2019, President Donald Trump signed the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act into law, awarding medals to Johnson and Darden as well as two posthumous medals to Vaughan and Jackson. 

In 2015, Johnson was given a Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. 

The Congressional Gold Medal, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is considered one of the highest civilian recognition in the U.S. It is awarded to individuals who have "who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient's field long after the achievement."