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.
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.'"
"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.
- Author Q&A: Margot Lee Shetterly Reveals NASA's 'Hidden Figures'
- 'Hidden Figure' Katherine Johnson Tells Her Own Story in Young Readers' Book
- NASA's 'Hidden Figures' Put Forward for Congressional Gold Medal
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Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.