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NASA changes the street name to "hidden" black female mathematicians

Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson have made key contributions to space exploration from the 1940s to the 1960s, when the United States sent people to orbit for the first time, and then walked the Moon.

Despite their achievements, all three had to face the racial segregation of the era.

They were among dozens of African Americans, both men and women who worked as mathematicians and physicists in the US space program, even though they were forced to use separate white bathrooms and were excluded from the same restaurants and schools attended by whites.

Shetterly said that the decision to ordain the Way of Hidden Figures honored the "contribution of invisible people who were there at the beginning of history, and whose perseverance and courage led us to where we are today."

"These feminine mathematicians have done hard work in aeronautics research and many, many other areas long before these pieces of electronic circuitry have become a decisive feature of our lives and work," she said at the Wednesday ceremony outside of NASA.

In 2015, US President Barack Obama gave Johnson, who is now 100, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.

Jackson and Vaughan died respectively in 2005 and 2008.

Next month NASA celebrates the 50th anniversary of the successful Apollo 11 mission and the first landing of the Moon in humanity.

The agency announced last month its plan to return astronauts to the moon by 2024. Through the program "Artemis" – named in honor of the twin sister Apollo in Greek mythology.

Katherine Johnson, seen here receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama, provided key input to American space exploration together with Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson

The work of the trio was largely forgotten until it was profiled in the book "Hidden Characters" decades later by Margot Lee Shetterly

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