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NASA confirms death of Katherine Johnson

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Posted at 10:04 AM, Feb 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-24 10:29:41-05

(LEX 18) — NASA's Katherine Johnson broke the glass ceiling and the earth's atmosphere. The woman who helped get Americans safely to space, died Monday at the age of 101.

"We're saddened by the passing of celebrated #HiddenFigures mathematician Katherine Johnson. Today, we celebrate her 101 years of life and honor her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers," NASA tweeted Monday morning.

Johnson was a mathematician, trailblazer and champion of STEM Education for women and African Americans. She was born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, in 1918. According to NASA, she showed great promise in math studies and began taking advanced classes. By the time she was 17, she had graduated from historically black West Virginia State College with honors.

As reported in a biography written by author Margot Lee Shetterly, astronaut John Glenn notoriously would not allow a launch into space to go ahead unless Johnson calculated the numbers. President Barack Obama honored Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

In 2016, the Oscar-nominated film "Hidden Figures" documented her life.