NASA’s Langley Research Center built a new state-of-the-art research facility in Hampton, Virginia and named the complex after Katherine Johnson, the NASA engineer, and star of the book and Oscar-nominated feature film Hidden Figures.
“You want my honest answer? I think they’re crazy,” Katherine Johnson said when she heard about the naming to he Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility.
The building was honored in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 22nd in an event attended by the Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe, Black Girls Code and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.
What is the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility?
The new facility is a $23 million, 37,000-square foot data center. The center was named after Johnson, who helped black women in the space program. Two years ago, Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work as a leader in the space program.
In 1962, when NASA began their orbital missions using computers, astronauts were apprehensive about using the technology. To make sure the calculations were accurate, John Glenn instructed scientists to “get the girl,” referring his trust in the hand calculations by Johnson, essentially NASA’s “human computer.”
The author of the book that inspired the movie Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly, was a keynote speaker at the event. Shetterly commented on Johnson’s legacy. “Telling your story has been an honor,” she said. “You work changed our history and your history has changed our future.”