Science News


ByTheMinute Tech

The hot, well maybe lukewarm by now, news in science is that LEGO have agreed to release their promotional figures of 5 influential women in space science for general purchase.

The figures were created by Maia Weinstock as part of a NASA program to celebrate women with high achievements in STEM. STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in old money btw.

Here's our BTM overview of the 5 women in question.

1 Margaret Hamilton Hamilton was a maths graduate who, in 1960 as a working mother and programmer for the space program, was pretty much unique, not just in NASA but in the world. Here she is with the code for an Apollo mission.

She started as a computer – literally “one who computes” – and eventually ended up more or less inventing the discipline of software engineering. With her team, she developed core ideas as they worked on what was effectively the world’s first portable computer. Portable in the sense that you needed a Saturn V rocket to carry it.

Eventually, she became responsible for the software which ran the Apollo program, before leaving to found her own tech. company.

2 Katherine Johnson She was known as the “girl who loved to count”, which sounds a bit patronising but was something she was quoted as saying about herself when receiving the 2015 National Medal of Freedom. “I counted everything. I counted the steps to the road, the steps up to church, the number of dishes and silverware I washed … anything that could be counted, I did.”

Her parents picked up on her brightness and gift with numbers and she fairly skipped through the education system, graduating way ahead of her peers.

Johnson, like Hamilton, was a computer, calculating spacecraft trajectories by hand. No mean feat, I can tell you. Even when electronic computers started to take over, she was still called upon to do the calculations for some of the Apollo missions, e.g John Glenn requested that she personally recheck the electronic computer calculations before his flight aboard Friendship 7.

3 Sally Ride The first female US astronaut in space (third overall behind two Russians), Ride was a mission specialist aboard the Challenger mission STS-7.