Hidden Figures trailer brings NASA’s women to forefront

16 Aug 2016

Katherine Johnson sits at her desk with a globe, or ‘celestial training device’. Image via NASA

Hidden Figures, a new film about a number of pioneering women during NASA’s earliest years, is set to bring discussions on gender and race in science to the forefront of people’s minds.

Originally a book written by author Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures is an upcoming film by director Theodore Melfi about renowned physicist and mathematician Katherine Johnson.

Now 97 years old, Johnson joined the precursor to NASA – the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) – in 1953, in its guidance and navigation department.

Future Human

After just a few years there and having forced her way to the forefront of the agency’s scientific minds, her finest achievement resulted in her determining the trajectory for the Apollo 11 mission that would see the first humans walk on the moon.

In this film, Johnson will be played by Taraji P Henson and will be joined by Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe who will play Johnson’s colleagues Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, respectively.

From Mercury to Apollo

In the case of Hidden Figures, the story begins when Johnson started her involvement in the Project Mercury spacecraft in 1962 that would lead to the US launching its first astronaut into space, Alan Shepard.

Another Mercury astronaut, John Glenn, would go on to play an even more crucial role in Johnson’s level of fame.

Before his famous flight that made him the first American to orbit the Earth, Glenn asked that Johnson double-check the trajectory predication created by one of NASA’s early computers.

Women of NASA

The first trailer for Hidden Figures comes less than a week after writer and science communicator Maia Weinstock was able to secure the 10,000 supporters for her Women of NASA Lego campaign.

Five famous NASA figures were included, with Johnson herself being joined by Sally Ride, Margaret Hamilton, Nancy Grace Roman and Mae Jemison.

The film is expected to be released in the US on 13 January 2017.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic