Former NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson dies

Her story of breaking gender and racial barriers as she worked on the first U.S. manned spaceflights was portrayed in the movie "Hidden Figures."
1:59 | 02/25/20

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Transcript for Former NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson dies
Finally tonight here, America strong. An American pioneer who, for so long, was a hidden figure at nasa. Katherine Johnson was from west Virginia, she was a mathematician, a pioneer. Part of a small group of African-American women hired as mathematicians at nasa. Breaking gender barriers, racial barriers in the '50s and '60s, she worked on the first manned space flights. Calculating the precise trajectories that would allow Apollo 11 to land on the moon. That's one small step for man. One giant lead for mankind. Reporter: Her role was long overlooked. Katherine, on the far right. Her daughter would hear the stories. Momma got there '53. The engineers came and asked for some specific skills. The supervisor said, oh, well that's Katherine. Reporter: And what was her role? The work was to take a calculator and do big equations, which could be a page long. Math is always dependable. Reporter: Johnson's role portrayed in the film "Hidden You have someone? Oh yes, ma'am. Katherine's the gal for that. She can handle any numbers you put in front of her. Reporter: She would own her We can calculate launch and landing, but without this conversion, the capsule stays in orbit. Reporter: You'll remember the movie was nominated for best picture. A true nasa and American hero, Katherine Johnson. Reporter: She was also awarded the presidential medal of freedom. And when her daughter asked all those years later, what if someone questioned you? What happened if somebody questioned your work? Tough. Reporter: Tough. And so was she. A true American pioneer. Katherine Johnson was 101. And an American original. I'm David Muir.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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