Wednesday , March 3 2021

Launching the space station honors the mathematician ‘Hidden Figures’

A space station delivery ship exploded into orbit from Virginia on the 59th anniversary of John Glenn’s historic flight

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – A space ship named after NASA’s black mathematician featured in the movie “Hidden Figures” has been launched into orbit Saturday, the 59th anniversary of John Glenn’s historic launch.

The Northrop Grumman Signus capsule – dubbed the SS Catherine Johnson – is due to arrive at the International Space Station on Monday after being launched from the east coast of Virginia.

Johnson passed away almost a year ago at the age of 101.

“Mrs. Johnson was selected based on her handwritten calculations that helped launch the first Americans into space, as well as her accomplishments in breaking the glass ceiling after the glass ceiling as a black woman,” said Frank Demauro, vice president of Northrop Grumman, on the eve of the removal. “Homework for all of you is to go see this movie after the launch of Cygnus.”

Johnson’s numbers contributed to the flight on February 20, 1962 in which Glenn became the first American to circumnavigate the globe. Contributions to Glenn’s flight success by Johnson and other black women have been described in a 2017 film. They worked at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, 100 miles from the launch site on Wolfs Island.

Northrop Grumman launched the 4-ton shipment to NASA in the early afternoon from Wolops, where temperatures were just above freezing. The Antares rocket was visible from the Carolinas to Connecticut, at least where the sky was clear.

This will be the space station’s second delivery in less than a week. A Russian capsule lasted, among other things, on Wednesday with apples and oranges.

“Oh, we love fresh food !!!” Japanese astronaut Sochi Noguchi tweeted. He noted that the space station flew over Virginia just 10 minutes before launch on Saturday.

Noguchi and his six American and Russian teammates can expect more apples as soon as the gignos arrives, along with tomatoes, nuts, smoked salmon, Parmesan and cheddar cheeses, caramel and coconut strips.

The capsule also contains 120,000 tiny roundworms for muscle testing, as well as off-the-shelf computer equipment to increase data processing speed on the space station. Also flying: Radiation detectors designed for NASA’s lunar landing program, and a new system to convert more of the astronauts’ urine into drinking water.

This is Northrop Grumman’s 15th station supply for NASA. SpaceX is NASA’s second forwarder.


The Associated Press’ Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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