Hidden Figures: Modern Approaches to Orbit and Reentry Calculations
The movie Hidden Figures was released in theaters recently and has been getting good reviews. It also deals with an important time in US history, touching on a number of topics, including civil rights and the Space Race. The movie details the hidden story of Katherine Johnson and her coworkers (Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson) at NASA during the Mercury missions and the United States' early explorations into manned space flight. The movie focuses heavily on the dramatic civil rights struggle of African American women in NASA at the time, and these struggles are set against the number-crunching ability of Johnson and her coworkers. Computers were in their early days at this time, so Johnson and her team's ability to perform complicated navigational orbital mechanics problems without the use of a computer provided an important sanity check against the early computer results.