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NASA IV&V Program celebrates Katherine Johnson’s legacy on mission-critical work and women’s equality

FAIRMONT – On Aug. 26, West Virginia and others celebrate Katherine Johnson Day, marking the NASA legend and NASA Independent Verification & Validation (IV&V) Facility namesake’s birthday.

Katherine Johnson was born on Aug. 26, 1918, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and early on her intelligence and scientific curiosity was apparent. She skipped several grades in school. By 13, she was attending the high school on the campus of West Virginia State College. At 18, she enrolled in the college itself, where she made quick work of the school’s math curriculum. In 1929, she was selected among the first Black students offered spots at the state’s flagship school, West Virginia University.

She would go on to play an integral role at NASA – making some of the agency’s biggest strides in space exploration possible. Her mathematics skills were unmatched even by technology. In preparation for the 1962 orbital flight of John Glenn, he asked engineers to “get the girl”—Johnson—to run the same numbers through equations that had been programmed into the computer, but by hand, on her desktop mechanical calculating machine. 

“If she says they’re good,’” Katherine Johnson remembered the astronaut saying, “then I’m ready to go.”

Although Katherine Johnson died in 2020 at 101 years old, her legacy lives on – especially here at the Katherine Johnson IV&V Facility.

“Katherine Johnson was a true pioneer and as a West Virginia native, and West Virginia State University graduate, it is an honor to have our Program anchored in a physical facility, in West Virginia, that bears her name,” Program Director Wes Deadrick said. “Frequently, when I pull onto University Drive and see her name on the front of our building, I am reminded of challenges and adversity she faced and strived to overcome on a daily basis.”

Katherine Johnson Day coincides with Women’s Equality Day, which commemorates the 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and acknowledges past and continued work toward equality and equity for women. Katherine Johnson is an important figure for women’s history and equality at NASA and in the United States. She has said “girls are capable of doing everything men are capable of doing,” and set an excellent example for women in STEM and beyond.

“As the Director for the NASA IV&V Program, I am exceptionally proud of our Program’s continued recognition of the impact Katherine Johnson has had on women’s equality and breaking down barriers to inclusion,” Deadrick said.

Celebrating Katherine Johnson Day And Women’s Equality Day With The IV&V Program Credits: NASA IV&V

Clarissa R. Cottrill
Communications Specialist