Counting on Katherine
How Katherine Johnson Put Astronauts on the Moon
Helaine Becker, illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
It seems that Counting on Katherine is what happens throughout Katherine Johnson’s life. In her early days, she counts the dishes in the sink and steps to church. Thereafter, her mathematical skills lead her to skip years as a star student at school. Furthermore, her counting skills mean her family must move to a high school that takes black students. Thenceforth she takes a job as a primary school teacher, one of the few jobs available to women.
When Katherine reads that the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) is looking for ‘computers’ she waits until there’s a post for her. Katherine’s ‘accuracy and strong leadership skills‘ see her promoted to support the programme to send ‘the first American astronauts into space’. Although dangerous work, star astronaut John Glenn refuses to fly unless Katherine tackles the numbers. We hear, ‘You can count on me‘ throughout this story.
No more so than during the Apollo 13 mission detailed in Survival in Space were Katherine’s human computer skills depended upon. It seems that Katherine’s careful calculations were responsible to charting the course of the beleaguered craft back to Earth. . ,
Counting on Katherine is a fascinating biography. We realise Katherine Johnson’s talents, determination and legacy, alongside the time through which she lived and worked.
UKLA Award Winning Information Book