“I am thrilled we are honoring Katherine Johnson in this way as she is a true American icon who overcame incredible obstacles and inspired so many,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. “It’s a fitting tribute to name the facility that carries on her legacy of mission-critical computations in her honor.”
The building aptly houses programs that support NASA’s highest-profile missions "by assuring that mission software performs correctly," according to an agency statement.
In her three decades at NASA and its predecessor agency, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, Johnson calculated trajectories for space missions including Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 mission in 1961, John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission in 1962 and several Apollo missions.
As a black woman, Johnson and fellow black mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson shattered racial and gender barriers and stereotypes during the height of the Civil Rights Era. Their story was documented in the 2016 film "Hidden Figures," which was based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly. Johnson was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson.
In 2015, Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2017, NASA honored her with its dedication of the Katherine Jonson Computational Research Facility in Hampton, Virginia.