“Her work at NASA quite literally launched Americans into space.”

By Meghan Overdeep
February 05, 2021
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A cargo spacecraft bound for the International Space Station has been named after NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, whose precise calculations helped Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.

Northrop Grumman announced the naming of the new NG-15 Cygnus this week. It is the aerospace company's tradition to name each Cygnus spacecraft after an individual who has "played a pivotal role in human spaceflight."

Credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Johnson, a native of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, was among the team of black, female, mathematicians working for NASA in the 1960s that inspired the Oscar-nominated movie Hidden Figures. Her calculations helped plot the successful flight of Alan B. Shepard Jr., who became the first American in space in 1961. Johnson also calculated the trajectory that put Apollo 11 on the moon in 1969. She died at the age of 101 on February 24, 2020.

"Her work at NASA quite literally launched Americans into space, and her legacy continues to inspire young black women every day," Northrop Grumman said in a news release. "Northrop Grumman is proud to celebrate the life of Katherine Johnson and her endlessly perseverant spirit."

The S.S. Katherine Johnson will fly to the International Space Station later this month.