The space shuttle named after mathematician Katherine Johnson is launched on the anniversary of the historic 1962 mission


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UPDATED 7:55 PM PT – Saturday February 20, 2021

NASA launched the space shuttle SS Katherine Johnson, named after the math that appears in the movie “Hidden Figures.” On Saturday, the space station’s supply ship entered orbit over Virginia on the 59th anniversary of astronaut John Glenn’s historic launch.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 26: NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson (C) and director Ezra Edelman (R) and producer Caroline Waterlow (L), winners of Best Documentary for 'OJ: Made in America' pose at the press room during the 89th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood & amp;  Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Frazer Harrison / Getty Images)

HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 26: NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson (C) and director Ezra Edelman (R) and producer Caroline Waterlow (L). (Photo by Frazer Harrison / Getty Images)

The SS Katherine Johnson contained approximately 8,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station. The rocket was launched just 100 miles from NASA’s Langley Research Center, the office where Johnson worked.

Johnson’s expertise in mathematics contributed to the success of Glenn’s launch on February 20, 1962, when he became the first American to orbit planet Earth. The rocket’s trajectory was calculated primarily by computers, but Glenn asked Johnson to verify the orbital calculations by hand.

The launch also came close to the one-year anniversary of Johnson’s death. He was 101 years old. Johnson’s math also helped NASA send astronauts to the moon and vice versa.

“His job was to take a Monroe or Freedom calculator,” said Johnson’s daughter, Joylette Goble. “And do the big equations, which could take up a page.”

The rocket is expected to arrive at the International Space Station on Monday and marks the second delivery the International Space Station receives this week. A Russian capsule was reportedly stopped last week with apples and oranges, among other supplies.

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