Another cargo ship is headed to the ISS after launching from Virginia on Saturday. The Cygnus cargo spacecraft was named the S.S. Katherine Johnson after the black mathematician featured prominently in the movie “Hidden Figures.” The capsule is due to arrive at the ISS on Monday, delivering about 8000 pounds of supplies, vehicle hardware, and scientific materials to the station.
Some of the items in the cargo will help astronauts learn about muscle loss in an experiment that uses worms, investigate sleep quality aboard the space station, test experimental treatments for diseases, upgrade life-support systems aboard the space station, and test equipment for moon missions, among other things. Northrop Grumman Vice President Frank DeMauro says that it’s tradition to name each Cygnus spacecraft after an individual that played a crucial role in human spaceflight.
Mrs. Johnson was chosen for hand-written calculations she performed that helped put the first Americans in the space. Johnson lived to be 101 years old, dying on February 24, 2020. During her life, she worked for NASA and its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, working on the early space program. Some of her key contributions to space travel include calculations that helped John Glenn become the first American to orbit the Earth.
The launch of the capsule coincided with the 59th anniversary of the historic mission. Another interesting tidbit about the launch was that it occurred at Wallops Island, which is about 100 miles from the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where Johnson and other black female mathematicians featured in “Hidden Figures” actually worked.
Not long ago, Russia launched a cargo supply ship to the ISS. That particular cargo ship will be the last to use the Russian docking port set to be replaced in the coming months.