NASA has officially renamed its Washington DC headquarters after the famous ‘Hidden Figures’ scientist Mary Jackson. While the decision to name the building in Jackson’s honour was announced last year, the official ceremony was held on 26th February 2021.
Jackson was the first African American female engineer at NASA and had an illustrious career spanning 34 years in the space agency.
In April 1951, Jackson joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the predecessor of NASA. In 1958, she became NASA’s first black female engineer in an era when female engineers were a rarity. In 1979, she left the engineering division at NASA and joined the open position of Langley’s Federal Women’s Program Manager, where she worked relentlessly to impact the hiring and promotion of the next generation of all of NASA’s female mathematicians, engineers and scientists.
Jackson was the subject of the famous book ‘Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race’ by Margot Lee Shetterly that details the contributions of the Black women to an early spaceflight. The book was also made into a movie, with Janelle Monáe essaying the role of Jackson.
In 2019, Jackson was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor, under the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act. Her African American colleagues at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia — Christine Darden, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan — were also bestowed with the medal.
“With the official naming of the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters today, we ensure that she is a hidden figure no longer,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “Jackson’s story is one of incredible determination. She personified NASA’s spirit of persevering against all odds, providing inspiration and advancing science and exploration.”
Jackson and her inspiring life has motivated thousands of other women across the world to break the glass ceiling. Do you agree? Let us know your views in the comments section below.
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