WASHINGTON — To kick off Black History Month, NASA released a video honoring the Black leaders in medicine, space exploration, mathematics and engineering who were a part of America's most prosperous times in researching and understanding our planet, solar system and place in the universe.
In the video, we see some of the most well-known faces in astronomy, who made history.
Mae Jemison is an American physician who was the first Black woman to become an astronaut. Jemison was born in 1956 in Decatur, Alabama and she spent more than a week in 1992 orbiting Earth in the space shuttle Endeavour.
George Carruthers was a scientist and inventor who developed the ultraviolet camera, also known as the spectrograph. NASA used it in 1972's Apollo 16 flight. The camera was able to answer some of the mysteries of Earth's atmosphere. Carruthers worked at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory after earning a Ph.D. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering.
A telescope and image converter he created was used to identify molecular hydrogen in space.
Some of the most famous mathematicians in the U.S. worked for NASA.
Dorothy Vaughan began working for the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in 1943 during World War II. Before that she was a math teacher at Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia. At times she was subject to 24-hour shifts and lots of urgency to satisfy a high demand to process aeronautical research data. Newly-hired mathematicians of color, as NASA notes, were often required to work separately from white counterparts.
Vaughan managed West Computing for almost ten years, and she retired from NASA in 1971.
Katherine Johnson was selected to be one of the first Black students chosen to integrate into West Virginia State's graduate school in 1939. Johnson left a job teaching to enroll into the school's math program. She later moved with her family to Newport News, Virginia to pursue a career with West Area Computing at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics' Langley laboratory, according to NASA.
Johnson is most noted for doing some of the key work for John Glenn's successful orbital flight in 1962. Glenn is remembered as saying about Johnson's computations for the flight, “If she says they’re good..then I’m ready to go.”
Mary W. Jackson began a successful engineering career at NASA's Langley Research Center after graduating from Hampton Institute in 1942 with a dual degree in Math and Physical Sciences. Jackson was a math teacher at a Black school in Calvert County, Maryland before that.
It is thought that in the 1950s Jackson could have very well been the only Black female aeronautical engineer in the field, NASA says. Jackson retired from Langley in 1985 earning the Apollo Group Achievement Award, as well as being named Langley's Volunteer of the Year in 1976.
Guy Bluford is also honored by NASA. Bluford became the first Black American astronaut to fly in space and was a member of NASA's "Thirty-Five New Guys" in the 1978 astronaut class. Blueford was an Air Force fighter pilot who earned a doctorate in aerospace engineering. He worked with space station operations and logged over 688 hours in space.