When I was a nerdy kid, I followed the space program and the 7 original astronauts almost as fervently as baseball. Every step of the way, I rooted for, and idolized, my astronaut heroes. In fact, many years later when I was working part-time in Sears while in college, my boss told me to go watch the first Space Shuttle launch in the TV Department (he was a great boss!). I have a painting on my study wall of the Space Shuttle Columbia, and I went on to earn a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering and worked at Grumman Aerospace in the the same building they built the Lunar Module (LM). All of this happened because of the space program and the inspiration it gave me.
But….I never knew this…..
In 1961, The world was on the cusp of the civil rights movement. Segregation was outlawed by the federal gov’t but many (mostly southern) states still held segregation as their law.
Brilliant minds worked at NASA Langley.
Brilliant minds of men and women of all colors. There was one group of African-American women who worked on, and developed, the launch and recovery mathematics of the early Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space launches.
in 1961, the world was at another cusp: A technological cusp where machine-based computers existed, but, practical working computers were just coming around, and human “computers” were employed to figure out the very complex math needed to successfully launch and recover space capsules. Capsules with people inside, with families, like Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, Wally Schirra, and Deke Slayton (he with a a heart condition).
“Hidden Figures” is the story of three brilliant African-American female mathematicians (and one aspiring engineer) who were in a group of “colored computers” who played pivotal roles in the success of our space program at a time just before, and during, the introduction of machine-based computers: Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae, click here to read a NASA paper written by Mary).
It is a story of success under non-ideal conditions, about people who pushed the civil rights and technology envelopes (like learning Fortran in the back of the bus), and about people who decided to do what is right (Al Harrison played by Kevin Costner) and those who were pulled kicking and screaming into the future while hanging on to the old oppressive ways (Paul Stafford played by Sheldon…errrr, Jim Parsons) and Vivian Mitchell played by Kirsten Dunst).
John Glenn was a true hero……played perfectly by Glen Powell.
“Hidden Figures” is must see movie, especially in these oppressive times we find ourselves in 2017. We must never return, we must resist the forces of Orange. We must fight to keep human rights moving forward. We must fight to keep science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) active and vibrant in girls, and boys, in grades K-12 and beyond. We must…..
Drive Safe! Never Forget (Carol, Chris, Kassy, and Bobby)