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From Hidden to Modern Figures

The film “Hidden Figures,” based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, focuses on three African-American women who were essential to the success of early spaceflight. NASA embraces their legacy and strives to include everyone who wants to participate in ongoing exploration.

Katherine Johnson at work, 1962

Hidden Figures is a movie based on actual events. While the movie dramatizes some aspects, it is true to the struggles of the women at the center of the story. The victories for racial and gender rights were not achieved easily or quickly, and our work is not done. Today, NASA strives to make sure their legacy of inclusion and excellence lives on.

As seen in the movie Hidden Figures, NASA has a long-standing cultural commitment to excellence that is largely driven by data, including data about our people. And our data shows progress is driven by questioning our assumptions and cultural prejudices—by embracing and nurturing all the talent we have available, regardless of gender, race or other protected status, to build a workforce as diverse as its mission. This is how we, as a nation, will take the next giant leap in exploration.

As a world leader in science, aeronautics, space exploration and technology, NASA has a diverse mission that demands talent from every corner of America, and every walk of life. With the human computers portrayed in Hidden Figures, NASA began leading the way in building a workforce as diverse as its mission—a workforce that will use the International Space Station to help put humans on Mars; make exciting discoveries about our universe; carry out research that will create greener, safer, quieter and faster air travel; monitor the health of our home planet; and develop cutting-edge technologies to explore our solar system and improve life on Earth.

In the 1960’s, NASA was on an ambitious journey to the moon, and the human computers portrayed in Hidden Figures helped get us there. Today, NASA is on an even more ambitious journey to Mars. We are building a vibrant, innovative workforce that reflects a vast diversity of discipline and thought, embracing and nurturing all the talent we have available, regardless of gender, race or other protected status.

NASA’s Modern History Makers

The NASA’s Modern History Makers series highlights members of NASA Glenn’s workforce who make our remarkable missions possible.

Learn More about NASA’s Modern History Makers
Phuong Marangoni stands in front of a portrait wall in the Research Support Building.

Modern Figures: Education Resources

The NASA Modern Figures Toolkit is a collection of resources and educational activities for students in grades K-12. Resources highlighted include videos, historical references and STEM materials.

Get the Toolkit about Modern Figures: Education Resources
Front cover of Modern Figures Toolkit