Why Is Human Computer Katherine Johnson Missing from New Women of NASA Lego Set?

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katherine johnson lego
Katherine Johnson recently had a NASA computational science building named after her. (NASA/Donaldson Collection/Getty Images)

The Women of NASA Lego set is due to be released in November but it won’t include one of the most famous members of the space organization. Commissioned by MIT News deputy editor Maia Weinstock, the set won’t see human computer Katherine Johnson among its items.

Weinstock proposed the set at the Lego Ideas platform last year as a set of five, which at that time included Johnson. As the center of the “Hidden Figures” book and movie, Johnson is responsible for verifying the calculations for the Mercury-Atlas 6 and Apollo 11 space missions. However, according to the press release, Johnson “chose not to be part of the set.” A company representative added in a statement to Gizmodo, “In order for us to move forward with a partner we need to obtain approval from all key people, which was not possible in this case. We naturally fully respect this decision.”

But four other pioneers are included. They are Mae Jemison, the first Black woman to travel into space; Sally Ride who is the first American woman in space; Nancy Grace Roman, also known as “Mother of Hubble,” who helped plan the Hubble Space Telescope; and Margaret Hamilton, who invented the modern idea of computer software.


More on Katherine Johnson

NASA Names Research Facility After Brilliant Mathematician Katherine Johnson 

Mathematician Katherine Johnson, Late Congresswomen Shirley Chisholm, and Other Black Pioneers to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

This Black NASA Mathematician Was the Reason Many Astronauts Came Home — Their Life Depended on Her Calculations


“With this project, I wanted to spotlight a fantastic group of women who have made seminal contributions to NASA history,” Weinstock said in a press release. “My dream would be to know that the first human on Mars — or an engineer or computer scientist who helped her get there — played with the Lego Women of NASA as a child and was inspired to pursue a STEM career as a result.”

katherine johnson lego
Katherine Johnson was originally supposed to be included in the Women of NASA set. Courtesy of LEGO

Each set will include Lego versions of the women pioneers accompanied by a build that speaks to their careers. Ride and Jemison share one next to the space shuttle Challenger, which has removable rocket stages. Roman’s includes a posable Hubble Space Telescope and Hamilton’s includes a stack of books representing the software code for the Apollo Guidance Computer.

The Women of NASA set goes on sale Nov. 1 for 24.99.

Atlanta Black Star has reached out to Lego for an official statement on Johnson’s exclusion. Johnson and her estate could not be reached for comment.

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