New Jersey's own 'Hidden Figure' helped put man on the moon

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Sandra Bookman has the latest details.

The words "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" are immortalized in American history, but for one teacher from New Jersey, they hold extra special meaning.

And that's because Marion Johnson is one of the hidden figures behind the space mission that landed John Glenn and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.

Johnson was an engineer at Boeing who worked on the rockets, and thanks in part to the Oscar-nominated film "Hidden Figures," her work is being recognized.

Although she now spends her days as a computer instructor at Jersey City's Branford Hall Career Institute, it's her work as part of the moon landing team that has garnered her recent well-deserved recognition.

"I remember that day just like it was implanted on my brain," she said. "We have reached the moon."

Fresh out off college and armed with a degree in mathematics, Johnson went to work for Boeing as an associate engineer. Her job for the Apollo mission was figuring out where the booster rockets would fall, and her name is even listed on the Roll of Honor at the Smithsonian for her part in the space mission.

But it was only after seeing "Hidden Figures," based on the eerily similar story of three African-American women at NASA in the 1960s, that Johnson begin seriously considering her own contributions.

"Didn't know that I was riding on the backs of Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan and (Mary) Jackson," she said. "I didn't know that, but now I know, and it makes me feel good to be part of that whole scene."

Her students admit they feel pretty good about their teacher's newly-found fame as well.

"Just to find out that she's a part of that, it makes me a big impact on me," student Jason San Martin said.

Last week, Branford Hall honored her as one of New Jersey's own "Hidden Figures." And while she said she's thankful for the recognition and proud to have played a small part in American history, she's most grateful about the message of her life and career.

"It's important for young women to know that they can do this too," she said.
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societyboeingmoonJersey City
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