NASA named its headquarters in Washington, DC, for Mary W. Jackson, the first black engineer at the space agency. Her role and contributions were celebrated in the movie “Hidden Figures”.
Jackson “was part of a very important group of women who helped NASA succeed in bringing American astronauts into space” and helped break down barriers, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement Wednesday announcing the honor.
Jackson, who died in 2005, was one of those featured in the 2016 film about pioneering black women whose work at NASA was integral during the space race.
“Hidden Figures” was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture, and was based on the book “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race” by Margot Lee Shetterly.
Jackson, a native of Hampton, Virginia, was recruited by the agency that preceded NASA, the National Aeronautics Advisory Committee, in 1951, and worked at the West Area Computer Unit, which was segregated.
She later entered a training program to be promoted from math to engineer, because classes were held in a segregated location, she needed special permission, NASA said, and in 1958, she became NASA’s first black engineer.
Jackson was an engineer for two decades. She joined the Langley Federal Women’s Program in 1979 and “worked hard to address the recruitment and promotion of the next generation of female mathematicians, engineers and scientists,” NASA said.
“We are honored that NASA continues to celebrate the legacy of our mother and grandmother Mary W. Jackson.” her daughter Carolyn Lewis said in the NASA statement.
“She was a scientist, humanitarian, wife, mother and pioneer who paved the way for thousands of others to succeed, not only at NASA, but across the nation,” said Lewis.
Last year, the street in front of NASA headquarters was renamed “Hidden Figures Way”.
Katherine Johnson, who appeared in the book and film and whose calculations helped synchronize the Apollo Project Lunar Module with the lunar orbit Command and Service Module, died in February at the age of 101. She also worked on the Space Shuttle.