NASA Langley dedicates new building to former “Human Computer”

Ya’marie Sesay | Campus Editor

Katherine Johnson at

The legacy of Katherine Johnson, whose historical work was celebrated in the book-turned-movie “Hidden Figures,” continues at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton as the new Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility (CRF) opens Sept. 22.

“It was kind of a perfect storm that led to naming the building after Katherine. The book came out, then the movie, and suddenly it was everywhere,” NASA Langley spokesman Michael Finneran said. “It seemed like the right thing to do given her background and the significance of her work here.”
The Katherine G. Johnson CRF will be a lab dedicated to innovative research and development focused on NASA’s air mobility and space exploration missions. This will be the third new building under NASA Langley Research Center’s 20-year revitalization plan.
The 20-year revitalization plan is focused on building six new energy efficient research and development facilities due to their average 45 years of aging structures.

“Its success is critical to being able to modernize the buildings and infrastructure at Langley and bringing the operations and maintenance budgets into balance,” Cathy Mangum, director of Langley’s Center Operations Directorate, said in a news release.

The $23 million building will include energy-saving features, five Langley data centers and more than 30 server rooms. Funding for construction was provided by the Norfolk District of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. The 37,000-square foot facility includes a data center and an office area for the chief information officer, the Atmospheric Flight Entry System Branch of the Engineering Directorate, and the Computational AeroSciences Branch of the Research Directorate. The building also will increase the advancement of modeling and simulation capabilities.

“Much of the work now performed in wind tunnels will one day be handled by powerful computers such as those in this new facility,” Finneran said.
The book “Hidden Figures” written by Margot Lee Shetterly, and subsequent movie showcased Johnson’s dedication and time as a “human computer” at NASA Langley Research Center from 1953 until 1986. In 1957 the West Virginia native calculated by hand the trajectories for America’s first space flights of Alan Shepard.

The Project Apollo’s Lunar Lander with the moon-orbiting Command and Service Module calculations were one of the greatest contributions to space exploration. Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The opening ceremony is expected to be attended by Johnson, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Sen. Mark Warner, Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck, and Shetterly, the featured speaker.

“It’s very important that the legacy of not only Katherine Johnson lives on, but that of her colleagues as well,” Finneran said. “People from all ages and backgrounds have been inspired and encouraged by the story, particularly because it is real.”



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