Black women who helped NASA during the Space Race of the 20th century are being awarded Congressional Gold Medals, CNN reports. The award is the highest civilian honor in the country.

The honorees include engineers Christine Darden and Mary Jackson, as well as mathematician Katherine Johnson and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan. Vaughan and Jackson have both passed away, so they will be awarded posthumously. 

An additional fifth gold medal will honor other women who generally contributed to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during the 1930s to the 1970s, ABC News reports.



The women who played a vital role for NASA, known as the Hidden Figures, were later depicted in a bestselling book and film, as Blavity previously reported. They worked at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia and acted as “human computers,” CNN reports.

Their contributions helped put a man on the moon in 1969 for the first time in history. The women also helped improve World War II aircraft testing, supersonic flight research and other space probes.

Even with their contributions, some of the women, like Vaughan, led racially segregated working units at NASA and were pushed into segregated bathrooms.



President Donald Trump signed the law to honor the women on Friday. Virginia senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine also backed the bill, NBC New York reports.

Democratic senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris of California was one of the lawmakers who introduced the bipartisan bill to honor these women, CNN reports.

“The groundbreaking accomplishments of these four women, and all of the women who contributed to the success of NASA, helped us win the space race but remained in the dark far too long. I am proud our bill to honor these remarkable women has passed Congress. These pioneers remain a beacon for Black women across the country, both young and old,” Harris said, according to a press release.

The heightened knowledge surrounding the "Hidden Figures" has sparked a push to have women, especially Black women, pursue STEM programs and receive support to attend the best programs in the country.