The African American Women Who Brought The U.S. To The Moon

The computers NASA depended on You may not have heard of the brilliant African American women who were instrumental in NASA’s most important projects throughout the 20th century. These...

The computers NASA depended on

You may not have heard of the brilliant African American women who were instrumental in NASA’s most important projects throughout the 20th century. These women were referred to as “The Computers Who Wear Skirts.” They worked with complex calculations that brought Americans to space and to the Moon the very first times and were considered more reliable than actual computers.

When imagining the pioneers of space travel, white men in astronaut suits typically come to mind. Let’s remember that women were recruited all over the country to work as computers for the Langley Research Center, and this surge of employment changed the dynamic of American households.

African-American women began to be recruited during the 1940s, and despite the discriminatory segregation that people of color faced at the time, those women were behind the scenes making legendary moves for humankind. NASA.gov explains, “The first African-American computers did the same work as their white counterparts, but in a period when segregation was policy across the South and in the U.S. armed services, they also encountered segregated dining and bathroom facilities, along with barriers to other professional jobs.”

These obstacles did not stop women like Katherine Johnson, Christine Darden, Dorothy Vaughan, and more remarkable African-American computers in skirts. Katherine Johnson’s calculations were specifically requested by the first man in orbit, John Glenn. National Geographic explains he was not willing to even begin his journey until Johnson had verified the calculations produced by a new breed of robotic computer. It is worth realizing how valuable these women’s contributions were. In a dark part of America’s history, they beamed brighter than stars.

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