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The Hidden Influencers in Early Space Exploration

The Hidden Influencers in Early Space Exploration

Here at One Giant Read, we’re on a mission to uncover the names and faces behind some of the most instrumental advances in space science.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries amidst times which saw segregation and oppression of black people in America, particularly in the South and there was a fight for equality in society, a different kind of revolution was happening in science.

A growing number of black female mathematicians, engineers and scientists were steering early space exploration and helping America to win the Cold War. These remarkable women worked at Langley Research Centre in Virginia as ‘human computers’ to drive space science advances which have had worldwide impact. Highly skilled mathematically and computationally minded women were indeed responsible for the calculations and thinking which made events such as Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon possible.

Other major events which were made possible by ‘hidden women’ in science was the launching of Apollo 11, Katherine Johnson was responsible for calculating the launch window which created and made possible astronaut John Glenn’s flight trajectory. Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barrack Obama in 2015 at the age of 97, three years after Glenn had received the accolade.

You can read more about the hidden figures in space science 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.