The National Space Grant Distinguished Service Award was established to recognize individuals whose life and career have had a long lasting impact in a science, engineering or education field that is related to aeronautic, aviation, or space endeavors. The inaugural award was presented in 2003 to former Senator and Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd M. Bentsen for his visionary work in creating the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Act.
This year’s recipient is physicist and mathematician Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson. Johnson was born in 1918, to Joshua and Joylette Coleman in White Sulphur Springs, Greenbrier County, West Virginia. Johnson made contributions to the United States’ aeronautics and space programs with the early application of digital electronic computers at NASA. Known for accuracy in computerized celestial navigation, her technical work at NASA spanned decades during which she participated in calculating the trajectories, launch windows, and emergency back-up return paths for many flights from Project Mercury including the early NASA missions of John Glenn and Alan Shepard, the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon, through the Space Shuttle program and even early plans for the Mission to Mars.
The following videos were presented at the National Space Grant meeting in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 3rd, 2017. In the first video, Johnson is presented this prestigious award. In the second video, Johnson reflects on some of her experiences working at NASA, raising 3 children, and being an African-American woman mathematician in the 1950’s.
Photos from the Reception and Dinner honoring Katherine Johnson can be seen here. For more information on Katherine Johnson and the 2017 National Space Grant Distinguished Service Award, please click here.