NASA Unveils 'Hidden Figures Way' at Headquarters to Honor Female Space Icons

The new street sign for Hidden Figures Way outside NASA headquarters in Washington is unveiled during a ceremony on June 12, 2019. (From left to right: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Sen. Ted Cruz, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and "Hidden Figures" author Margot Lee Shetterly.)

(Image: © Joel Kowsky/NASA)

The street outside NASA headquarters in Washington was renamed "Hidden Figures Way" today (June 12) in honor of the women who worked as "human computers" at the agency when it first started launching astronauts into space, during the 1960s.

In a renaming ceremony outside NASA headquarters, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; author of the "Hidden Figures" book (William Morrow, 2016), Margot Lee Shetterly; and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson unveiled the new street sign at the corner of 4th Street and what is now Hidden Figures Way — formerly E Street SW.

"A street sign is a piece of metal ... but it's [also] a lot more than that," said Cruz, who sponsored a bill called the Hidden Figures Way Designation Act to rename the street. "When girls and boys come to see NASA, they're going to look up and see that sign" and ask about it, which will hopefully prompt discussions about the history of segregation at NASA and in this country as a whole, the senator said. 

Related: 'Hidden Figures' Movie Probes Little-Known Heroes of 1960s NASA (Gallery) 

Cruz said his bill was inspired by the 2016 film "Hidden Figures," adapted from the book, which tells the story of three African American women —  Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson —  who worked at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia at a time when racial segregation and gender discrimination were the norm. Those women overcame these obstacles and played critical roles in launching the first U.S. astronauts into space.

Cruz said that he hopes the street's new name will "inspire generations after generations of kids, and particularly little girls, who may be told in school, 'You can't do something.'"

A photo taken outside NASA Headquarters in Washington shows the street sign of what was formerly E Street SW but was renamed Hidden Figures Way. The new sign was covered up before the grand unveiling on June 12, 2019.

(Image: © Joel Kowsky/NASA)

"May Hidden Figures Way remind us of the standard that was set by these women and their commitment to science," Shetterly said at the ceremony, adding that she hopes the new street sign will "open our eyes to the contributions of the people around us so that their names, too, are the ones we remember."

To conclude the ceremony, Bridenstine said that NASA's astronaut corps is more diverse now than it has ever been. He also reiterated that NASA will be landing the first woman on the moon in 2024 as part of the agency's new Artemis moon program. 

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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