Senate unanimously passes resolution to honor NASA pioneer Katherine Johnson

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WASHINGTON (WFXR) — On Friday morning, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a resolution celebrating the accomplishments of Katherine Johnson, one of NASA’s “Hidden Figures” who was a pioneer in physics and mathematics before passing away on Monday at the age of 101.

The resolution to honor the West Virginia native was sponsored by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

Even though Johnson may be gone, Warner says she will continue to serve as an icon, a source of inspiration for young women with dreams of careers in STEM.

“Katherine Johnson was essential to NASA’s success in the Space Race. But as an African-American woman working at Langley Research Center in the era of Jim Crow, she went unrecognized for decades. Thankfully this trailblazer lived to see the recognition she deserved – including a blockbuster movie, a Congressional Gold Medal, and a building named in her honor on the campus where she was once forced to use separate facilities because of the color of her skin. Katherine Johnson’s life is evidence that we as a nation must continue to strive towards equality of opportunity for all our citizens. While she is no longer with us, Katherine Johnson will continue to inspire generations of Americans, especially young women thinking of careers in math and science.”  

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA)

Meanwhile, Kaine says the resolution will serve as “a small reminder” of Johnson’s incredible accomplishments.

“Katherine Johnson’s pioneering contributions to orbital mechanics helped our nation reach the stars. As one of the first African American women to work as a NASA scientist, she paved the way for generations to come. This resolution is a small reminder of her amazing contributions.”

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)

Upon passage, Manchin said, “Katherine helped put Americans on the Moon, and because of her accomplishments, more young women can – and will – blaze their own trails.”

“A White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia native, Katherine Johnson not only completed groundbreaking work at NASA during the space race, but also broke the barriers of race and gender during a critical time in our nation. Katherine graduated summa cum laude from West Virginia State College in 1937 with degrees in mathematics and French and became the first African-American woman to attend graduate school at West Virginia University. She began her work as a mathematician for NASA, eventually running the equations that sent the first American astronaut to orbit Earth. Because of the accomplishments of intellectual leaders like Katherine Johnson, more young women have, and will, blaze their own trails in science, technology, engineering, and math fields, and will continue to make our state and entire nation proud. We cannot thank Katherine enough for her contributions to our state and our nation and she will be missed greatly by us all.”

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)

As the first female from West Virginia to serve in the U.S. Senate, Capito says that Johnson’s story continues to inspire her as well as many other residents in the Mountain State.

“Katherine Johnson proved to us that no obstacle is too high if you work hard and believe in your goals. As a West Virginian, Katherine used her toughness and grit to surpass societal barriers and turn her dreams into a reality. The legacy of Katherine Johnson will be remembered every time we look up at the moon and remember how her work took us there for the first time. As the first female U.S. Senator from West Virginia, I am not only continuously inspired by Katherine’s story, but I am also inspired by her kindness and humility. Generations of little girls who also aspire to reach the stars will draw strength and encouragement from Katherine’s legacy. Her work is no longer hidden by the shadows of the men she put on the moon. Katherine Johnson will forever be a star in the Mountain State and will be significantly missed by all.”

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)

The NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia — where Johnson worked for over three decades — promises to “carry forward her legacy.” In addition, NASA posted numerous videos, pictures, and testimonials about Johnson’s incredible contributions to advancing STEM and pushing for racial and gender equality.

“NASA is deeply saddened by the loss of a leader from our pioneering days, and we send our deepest condolences to the family of Katherine Johnson. Ms. Johnson helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors for women and people of color in the universal human quest to explore space. Her dedication and skill as a mathematician helped put humans on the moon and before that made it possible for our astronauts to take the first steps in space that we now follow on a journey to Mars. Her Presidential Medal of Freedom was a well-deserved recognition. At NASA we will never forget her courage and leadership and the milestones we could not have reached without her. We will continue building on her legacy and work tirelessly to increase opportunities for everyone who has something to contribute toward the ongoing work of raising the bar of human potential.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine


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