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NASA’s “Hidden Figures” women nominated for top award

INSPIRATIONAL: Manager Dorothy Vaughan, mathematician Katherine Johnson and engineers Mary Jackson and Christine Darden — have been put forward for Congressional Gold Medals (Photo credit: NASA)

U.S LAWMAKERS hope to bestow the nation's highest civilian award to four of NASA's "Hidden Figures" African American women, whose roles as human "computers" helped to launch astronauts to outer space in the early 1960s.

Senators such as Chris Coons and Lisa Murkowski along with 44 of their colleagues have introduced a bipartisan bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Christine Darden.

The "Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act" (S.3321) aims to highlight the four women’s “broader impact on society; paving the way for women, especially women of colour, in science, technology, engineering and mathematics."

In a statement, Coons said: "Each of these women played an important role at NASA during the space race, but for many years their accomplishments remained hidden.

"This bill will help recognise these extraordinary women and bring their accomplishments into the light so they can serve as an inspiration to younger generations of women in science, particularly those of colour.

"The lives and careers of Johnson, Vaughan, Jackson and Darden were chronicled in "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race," authored by Margot Lee Shetterly.

The book was later adapted for the 2016 feature film "Hidden Figures.” Speaking about the proposal, Shetterly said: "Nothing could be more gratifying than to see these women — quiet heroes from my hometown — recognised for their service to our country.

"With their commitment to progress through science and an unyielding belief in equality, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Dr Christine Darden are role models to us all."

The Congressional Gold Medal is awarded to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to U.S. history and are likely to be recognised in the recipient's field for years to come.

In order for the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act to be considered by the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, an additional 20 co-sponsors are needed.

Providing that the bill achieves its support and is passed by the Senate, similar legislation must also be co-sponsored by at least two-thirds (290) of the House of Representatives for it to pass into law.

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