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NASA facility named after ‘Hidden Figures’ heroine, human computer Katherine Johnson

NASA has named a new research facility after pioneer Katherine Johnson, the trailblazing 99-year-old human computer whose incredible work as a NASA mathematician inspired the book and movie, “Hidden Figures.”

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The $23-million Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility, or CRF, is located at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and spans 37,000 square feet of server rooms and data centers.

There, scientists will have access to some of NASA’s most powerful computers as well as an office area in which researchers can do their work, NASA said on its website.

“You have been a trailblazer,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said to Johnson during the ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday. “When I think of Virginia and the history of what we’ve gone through … you’re at the top of that list.”

Johnson, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, spent much of her career at Langley, calculating trajectories for America’s first spaceflights. She worked at the center from 1953 until she retired in 1986.

At the ceremony, after a speech from keynote speaker Margot Lee Shetterly, the “Hidden Figures” author who brought the work of Johnson and fellow human computers Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan into the spotlight, Johnson received four standing ovations and humbly said she had just been doing her job.

“I like the stars, and the stories we were telling, and it was a joy to contribute to the literature that was going to come out,” she said. “But little did I think it would go this far.”

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