CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The untold story of women who worked in NASA Langley's West Area Computers Unit will come to the big screen Friday.
The movie "Hidden Figures," based on the novel by Margot Lee Shetterly, tells the story of three of these women: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, three dynamic women who worked at NASA during the 1950s and 1960s to help put the first American in space.
The cast and crew and came to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center complex on Dec. 12 and talked about their experience and the timely nature of the movie.
Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae spoke on a panel, along with director Theodore Melfi and soundtrack producer Pharrell Williams.
“When I discovered that these incredible women existed I was saddened because there was a universal understanding when I was coming up that math and science was for boys. So, I already had a low expectation,” said Henson, who plays Johnson, a mathematician.
Johnson worked on some of NASA’s biggest missions, including John Glenn’s mission as the first person to orbit the Earth aboard the Friendship 7, which the movie is centered around.
The cast and crew lamented that the story of these women is timely in the culture of American now.
“I think that these women did not really think about race or gender until some made it a big issues. And then when it got in the way of them pursuing their dream and their goals. That is when they had to stand up for themselves. And I think again that these women were selfless. They were not just doing this for them to be happy but they were doing it for their communities to be proud,” said Monae, who plays Jackson in the film. Jackson was one of the first female black engineers at NASA in the 1950s and may have been the only one during this time.Monae, who plays Jackson in the film. Jackson was one of the first female black engineers at NASA in the 1950s and may have been the only one during this time.
Spencer, who plays Vaughan, one of NASA's first African-American managers, said a lot could be learned from these women.
“I have always loved John Glenn.The thing that struck me most is that he made a decision to put his hands in the life of an African-American woman that was not a popular decision at the time," Spencer said. "And if you can do that and put aside your difference and believe in a person based on what they can contribute and how they contributed ... I mean mankind ... we would go beyond the stars again.”
Watch the movie trailer below: