NASA announced plans to rename a facility after legendary mathematician Katherine Johnson paying tribute to her lasting impact on space exploration.
In a February 22 ceremony, Johnson, a West Virginia native, was presented with a building on the NASA complex in honor of her illustrious career.
The Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility will serve as a building dedicated to safety programs. ABC News reports the facility houses NASA’s highest-profile missions “by assuring that mission software performs correctly.”
For 30 years, Johnson’s calculations were used for some of the most fundamental missions in the early days of NASA.
She calculated the trajectories for Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 mission in 1961, John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission in 1962 and multiple Apollo missions before the use of computers. She was deemed a “human computer” whose story became subject of the 2016 film Hidden Figures.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine showered her with praise for the 100-year-old’s achievements and bravery breaking down racial and gender barriers at early NASA.
“I am thrilled we are honoring Katherine Johnson in this way as she is a true American icon who overcame incredible obstacles and inspired so many,” Bridenstine said in a statement. “It’s a fitting tribute to name the facility that carries on her legacy of mission-critical computations in her honor.”
In the past few years, the public has become familiar with the work Johnson and other Black mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. NASA wants to continue to teach future generations about her role in some of America’s most essential forays into space travel.
“It’s an honor the NASA IV&V Program’s primary facility now carries Katherine Johnson’s name,” NASA IV&V Program Director Gregory Blaney said in the release. “It’s a way for us to recognize Katherine’s career and contributions not just during Black History Month, but every day, every year.”
Johnson has also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. In 2017, NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, dedicated the Katherine Johnson Computational Research Facility as a way to honor her lasting legacy.