African American physicist, mathematician, and space engineer.
She contributed to the aeronautics and space programs at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Renowned for her reliability in computerized space navigation, she conducted technical work at NASA that spanned decades. In 2017, she was still living at age 99. A building at NASA has been named after her. Working for NASA, she calculated trajectories, launch windows, and emergency plans for many flights in the Mercury program including the first missions of John Glenn and Alan Shepard, the flight of Apollo 11 to the Moon in 1969, and the space shuttle program. Her calculations were essential for the success of these missions. Johnson also calculated the plans for a mission to Mars.
In 2015, Johnson was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom. The following year, she was featured in the BBC’s 100 Women list series.