Meet the real women who inspired the movie “Stars Beyond Time”

Among the Oscar nominees for this year's best film is the drama "Stars Beyond Time, " a feature film about a trio of genius black women who worked in NASA's math department in the 1960s and were instrumental in helping Americans to win the space race against the Russians. For if you don't know it yet, even though it sounds like a fictional story, these are real women who have faced immense challenges.

Troubled panorama

Go back in time and imagine what it was like to live in the United States of the 1950s and 1960s, when racial segregation was a matter of concern, the Cold War was at its height, women had little or no opportunity to enter the “ world of men, ”and the Soviet Union and the US struggled to see who could reach space first.

They had to face countless adversities

It was in this context that the trio of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson - women, mathematicians, and blacks - helped change the course of American history even as it faced endless biases and difficulties.

The three worked together at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia, and it was thanks to the efforts of them and many other women (most of them anonymous) that the space agency was able to send astronaut John Glenn into space and bring him back. safe and sound to earth. But how did these amazing people make their way through so much adversity and discrimination to get there?

Mary jackson

Going back a little further during World War II, then-US President Franklin Roosevelt began breaking paradigms when he banned discrimination in the employment of workers based on ethnicity, color, creed, and national origin in government agencies and the world. war effort - and that's what opened the door to NASA's hiring of Katherine, Mary, and Dorothy. Incidentally, the organization was one of the pioneers in the US in employing black people and women.

Katherine Johnson

In fact, nerds from around the country who were interested in aerospace research went to Langley for opportunities; So the reality is that NASA became known for employing all sorts of weirdos. Among them were many liberal and progressive minds that gradually gave way and made room for minorities - women and blacks - to show their ability.

Dorothy Vaughan

However, still, don't think the whole thing happened simply! Even at NASA segregation existed, and black women, although they could work for the organization, were relegated to a specific unit that was distant from the others, the West Area.

Skirt Computers

When they began working for NASA, Katherine, Mary, and Dorothy were meant to support the space agency's engineers and scientists - men and whites - by performing complex mathematical calculations and ensuring that the numbers IBM's newly installed machines spit were correct. . At the time, the organization was fully focused on the development of Project Mercury, the first US program to safely send human beings into orbit around Earth.

West Area Computers

The maths who worked at Langley were then known as "skirt computers" - or even West Area Computers, in reference to the unit they occupied at NASA. The calculations they performed (by hand!) Contributed enormously to the development of faster, safer aircraft, more efficient aerodynamics, and space exploration as a whole.

Unlike so many engineers - men and whites - who worked for NASA, very few women have received any recognition of their contribution to scientific publications, scholarly work, or participation in countless projects.

The contribution of these brilliant women was immense

Not to mention that the careers of these brilliant human computers were relatively short, since when these women were married and had children, they were expected to give up their jobs to become housewives. Not surprisingly, the story of Katherine, Mary, and Dorothy was not well known, and NASA made a point of getting involved in the production of the film to ensure that the plot was as true to its stellar trajectory as possible.

Real stars

Katherine Johnson, played in the movie by Taraji P. Henson, was an exceptional math who began working for NASA in the 1950s. She was considered so brilliant and her equations so precise that it was to Katherine that astronaut John Glenn entrusted the mission of Check the calculations of the trajectory of the ship he would embark on - Friendship 7 - to become the first human to orbit the earth.

John Glenn

Born in 1918, Katherine has always been obsessed with numbers and has excelled throughout her academic life for her keen mind. She entered secondary school at the age of 10, graduated from West Virginia State College at 18, and worked as a teacher until she joined NASA in 1953. In addition to participating in the Mercury Project, Katherine contributed to the Redstone and Apollo programs.

Katherine Johnson, played by Taraji Hens

Dorothy Vaughan, played by Octavia Spencer in the feature film, was born in Missouri in 1910 and graduated from Wilberforce University of Ohio in 1926. She abandoned her career as a teacher during World War II to work for NASA and became the first black woman assume a management position at the space agency - paving the way for other minorities to gain their space at the institution.

Dorothy Vaughan, played by Octavia Spencer

Vaughan was the manager of the West Area Computer Unit from 1949 until 1958 and eventually became a programming expert. Dorothy continued to work for NASA and made major contributions to the Scout rocket launcher development program until retiring in 1971.

Mary Jackson, lived in the cinema by Janelle Monáe, went to Langley after working as a teacher. Born in Virginia in 1921, Mary - who had a degree in Physics and Mathematics - worked in the data processing of wind tunnel and experimental flight tests and joined NASA in a training program that eventually allowed her to be promoted in mathematics. the engineer.

Mary Jackson, played by Janelle Monáe

To this end, Mary studied engineering at the University of Virginia - while maintaining her work at Langley - and in 1958 became NASA's first black engineer. Mary remained in the space agency until she retired in 1985 and has spent all these years struggling to improve the working conditions of women in the organization.