Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Glen Powell, Mahershala Ali, Karan Kendrick, Aldis Hodge
OUR RATING: ★★★★☆
Bio-drama directed and co-written by Theodore Melfi which tells the untold true story of three brilliant African-American women, Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn (Glenn Powell) into orbit and guaranteeing his safe return, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence and turned around the Space Race. The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.
Best Quotes (Total Quotes: 47)
[White Sulphur Spring, West Virginia, 1926 – Katherine’s parents are meeting with Katherine’s principal and teacher]
Marion Smithson: West Virginia Collegiate Institute is the best school for Negros in the state.
Ms. Sumner: It’s the only school past the eighth grade anywhere near here.
[we see young Katherine sitting outside talking to herself as she does math calculations]
Young Katherine Coleman: Isosceles. Scalene. Equilateral. Rhombus. Trapezoid.
Joshua Coleman: Katherine’s in the sixth grade.
Ms. Sumner: They want to take her early.
Young Katherine Coleman: Tetrahedron. Dodecahedron.
Marion Smithson: They’re offering a full scholarship. All you have to do is get there.
[whilst Katherine is in class]
Professor Graves: Ms. Coleman, why don’t you solve the equation on the board?
[back to Katherine’s parents with her principal and teacher]
Ms. Sumner: We took up a collection amongst the teachers and such. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to help get you settled in.
Younger Joylette Coleman: That’s more than kind, Ms. Sumner.
[to her class after solving the math equation]
Young Katherine Coleman: If the product of two terms is zero then common sense says at least one of the two terms has to be zero to start with. So if you move all the terms over to one side, you can put the quadratics into a form that can be factored allowing that side of the equation to equal zero. Once you’ve done that, it’s pretty straightforward from there.
[to the Coleman’s]
Ms. Sumner: In all my years of teaching I’ve never seen a mind like the one your daughter has.
[Hampton, Virginia 1961 – Dorothy is under the car trying to fix it as Katherine and Mary wait]
Dorothy Vaughan: Okay, try to turn it over now. Katherine! Mary! Somebody!
Mary Jackson: Katherine! Quit staring off into space and turn the damn car over.
Katherine Johnson: I got it! I’m not deaf.
Mary Jackson: I wonder sometimes.
Katherine Johnson: Here it goes.
[Katherine tries to turn on the car]
Dorothy Vaughan: Yeah, it’s the starter. That is definitely the starter.
Mary Jackson: This starter is starting to make us late. We are all going to end up unemployed riding around in this pile of junk to work every day.
Dorothy Vaughan: Well, you’re welcome to walk the sixteen miles.
Katherine Johnson: Or sit in the back of the bus.
Mary Jackson: I won’t do neither. I’ll hitchhike.
[as Mary goes to hitchhike she notices a police car approaching them]
Mary Jackson: Girls.
Dorothy Vaughan: No crime in a broken-down car.
Mary Jackson: No crime being Negro neither.
Katherine Johnson: Button it up, Mary. Nobody wants to go to jail behind your mouth.
Mary Jackson: I’ll do my best, sugar.
[the cop car pulls up by them and get out of his vehicle]
White Cop: Not a great place for three of y’all be having car trouble.
Mary Jackson: We didn’t pick the place, Officer. It picked us.
White Cop: Are you being disrespectful?
Mary Jackson: No, sir.
White Cop: You have identification on you?
Mary Jackson: Yes, sir.
Katherine Johnson: Yes, sir. We’re just on our way to work at Langley. NASA, sir.
[all three show him their ID’s]
Dorothy Vaughan: We do a great deal of the calculating, getting our rockets into space.
White Cop: All three of you?
Katherine Johnson: Yes, sir.
Mary Jackson: Yes, Officer.
[he takes Mary’s ID and looks at it]
White Cop: NASA, now that’s something. I had no idea they hired…
Dorothy Vaughan: There are quite a few women working in the space program.
White Cop: Damn Russians are watching us right now. Sputniks. You girls ever meet those astronauts? Mercury Seven?
Mary Jackson: Absolutely.
Katherine Johnson: Uh, yes, sir. We work with those gentlemen all the time.
White Cop: Those boys are the best we got. I’m sure of that.
Katherine Johnson: Yeah.
Mary Jackson: Yeah.
White Cop: We got to get a man up there before the commies do.
Katherine Johnson: Yes.
Mary Jackson: Absolutely.
White Cop: Whole damn country’s counting on them.
Dorothy Vaughan: That’s for certain.
Mary Jackson: Hard being of service broken down on the side of the road, though.
White Cop: Right, right. Uh, well, do y’all need a tow or something?
Dorothy Vaughan: No, thank you, Officer. I think I got it. Just give me my…
[Katherine reaches in the car and passes something to Dorothy]
Dorothy Vaughan: Just need to bypass the starter.
Katherine Johnson: She’s good at this stuff.
[Dorothy quickly gets the car started]
Dorothy Vaughan: Wooh! Attagirl. We’re all set.
White Cop: Well, hell, the least I can do is give y’all an escort. I imagine you’re running late to work.
Katherine Johnson: Oh, no, sir. We wouldn’t want to bother you.
Mary Jackson: That would be wonderful, Officer. Thank you so much, sir.
White Cop: Follow me.
Mary Jackson: I’m driving. Hurry up, Dorothy, before he changes his mind.
Dorothy Vaughan: We’re coming. Hold your horses.
[as they are following the cop who’s escorting them to work]
Dorothy Vaughan: Mary, Mary, slow down. You’re too close!
Mary Jackson: Be quiet, he said to follow him.
Dorothy Vaughan: He didn’t mean up his behind!
Katherine Johnson: Dear Lord, I don’t even know where to begin!
Mary Jackson: Oh, I’ll tell you where to begin. Three Negro women are chasing a white police officer down the highway in Hampton, Virginia in 1961. Ladies, that there is a God-ordained miracle.
Katherine Johnson: And tomorrow, I’m riding the bus.
Jim Webb: A damn dog and a damn mannequin. And then, a 1.6 megaton RDS-37 thermonuclear warhead drops down in the middle of Des Moines.
Paul Stafford: Well, that’s a pretty big jump, sir.
Jim Webb: What?
Paul Stafford: Just that, that…
Jim Webb: Who the hell is he?
Al Harrison: Paul Stafford, our lead engineer, Mr. Webb. I think what he meant to say is that speculation, at least on our side of the equation by definition, can be just a little dangerous.
Jim Webb: Dangerous? You know what’s dangerous, Mr. Stafford? Inaction and indecision. The Russians have a spy satellite lapping the planet, taking pictures of God knows what! The President is demanding an immediate response. No more delay. Alan Shepard, John Glenn, your uncle Bob, it doesn’t matter. Get us up there, Harrison. We can’t justify a space program that doesn’t put anything in space.
[referring to their meeting with Jim Webb]
Al Harrison: How did that feel in there, Paul? You think you enlightened the administrator? Hm? No, he didn’t look enlightened to me. He look enlightened to you, Sam?
Sam Turner: Not particularly.
Al Harrison: And just so you know, he’s not wrong about what he said in there. You know that, right? Because now that they can get up there, a bomb will follow. It’s what happens to all our good ideas. I imagine theirs too. Where’s… Where’s the machine?
Ruth: Any day now, Mr. Harrison.
Al Harrison: Any day now.
Ruth: Yes, sir.
Al Harrison: What’s it called? The initials?
Ruth: The IBM.
Paul Stafford: International Business Machines.
Al Harrison: Space is a business. I need a mathematician.
Ruth: I’ll put in another request, sir.
Al Harrison: Another request. Jesus Christ. We don’t have a single person in this entire building that can handle analytic geometry?
Ruth: That’s what I’ve been told.
Al Harrison: Tell me something else, Ruth, like we’re going to find such a person before the Russians plant a flag on the damn moon.
Vivian Mitchell: Space Task Group needs a computer, ASAP. Someone with a handle on analytic geometry. We can’t fill that position out of the east group.
Dorothy Vaughan: Permanent or temp?
Vivian Mitchell: Everything’s temporary, Dorothy. You have someone?
Dorothy Vaughan: Yes, ma’am. Katherine’s the gal for that. She can handle any numbers you put in front of her.
Vivian Mitchell: I’ll check her credentials.
[she turns to leave]
Vivian Mitchell: Didn’t think I’d come all the way down here.
Dorothy Vaughan: Mrs. Mitchell, If I could. My application for supervisor, ma’am. I was just wondering if they’re still considering me for that position.
Vivian Mitchell: Yes. Well, the official word is no. They’re not assigning a permanent supervisor for the colored group.
Dorothy Vaughan: May I ask why?
Vivian Mitchell: I don’t know why. I didn’t ask why.
Dorothy Vaughan: We need a supervisor, ma’am. We haven’t had one since Miss Jansen got sick. It’s been almost a year.
Vivian Mitchell: Things are working just fine as is.
Dorothy Vaughan: I’m doing the work of a supervisor.
Vivian Mitchell: Well, that’s NASA for you. Fast with rocket ships, slow with advancement. Get those trajectory calcs worked out, we need them for the Redstone test.
Karl Zielinski: There is another opening in the Engineer Training Program.
Mary Jackson: lat head rivets would reduce wind drag.
Karl Zielinski: Mary, a person with engineer’s mind should be an engineer. You can’t be a computer the rest of your life.
Mary Jackson: Mr. Zielinski, I’m a Negro woman. I’m not going to entertain the impossible.
Karl Zielinski: And I’m a Polish Jew whose parents died in a Nazi prison camp. Now I’m standing beneath a spaceship that’s going to carry an astronaut to the stars. I think we can say we are living the impossible. Let me ask you, if you were a white male, would you wish to be an engineer?
Mary Jackson: I wouldn’t have to, I’d already be one.
[escorting Katherine to the Space Task Group]
Vivian Mitchell: Skirts must be worn past the knee. Sweaters are preferred to blouses. No jewelry. A simple pearl necklace is the exception. Your supervisor is Mr. Al Harrison, Director of the Space Task Group. You’ll write research, proof calculations, so forth. Do not talk to Mr. Harrison unless he talks to you. Not many computers last more than a few days. He’s been through a dozen in as many months. Come on, keep up. Things move fast around here. Your clearance.
[she gives Katherine her ID badge]
Vivian Mitchell: They’ve never had a colored in here before, Katherine. Don’t embarrass me.
[Katherine enters the Space Task Group offices, as she look around in amazement Sam walks up to her and gives her a garbage bin]
Sam Turner: This wasn’t emptied last night.
Katherine Johnson: I’m sorry, I’m not the…custodian.
[Katherine puts the bin down and walk over to Ruth]
Katherine Johnson: Excuse me, ma’am. Mr. Harrison’s computer reporting.
Ruth: Take the desk in the back, I’ll get your work in a bit. Mr. Harrison won’t warm up to you, don’t expect it. Do your work, keep your head down.
Katherine Johnson: Thank you.
Ruth: Go on. Get settled.
Al Harrison: Ruth, what’s the status on that computer?
Ruth: She’s right behind you, Mr. Harrison.
[he turns and sees Katherine]
Al Harrison: Does she handle Analytic Geometry?
Ruth: Absolutely, and she speaks.
Katherine Johnson: Yes, sir, I do.
Al Harrison: Which one?
Katherine Johnson: Both. Geometry and speaking.
Al Harrison: Ruth, get me the…
[Ruth hands him a piece of paper]
Al Harrison: You think you, uh, you think you can find me the Frenet Frame for this data using the Gram-Schmidt…
Katherine Johnson: Orthogonalization algorithm. Yes, sir. I prefer it over Euclidean coordinates.
Al Harrison: Okay, good. Good, then I’m going to need it by the end of the day.
Katherine Johnson: Yes.
Al Harrison: I’m also going to ask you to check Mr. Stafford’s math as well as others’ on this floor from time to time.
Paul Stafford: I can, I can handle that, Al.
Al Harrison: I’m sure you can, Paul. I’m sure they all can. But if that were the case shingles wouldn’t be flying off the heat shield, now would they?
[to the NASA workers]
Al Harrison: Just to be clear in fourteen days, the Mercury Seven will be here for training, and I have no doubt in my mind that they’re going to be asking us questions about our work. I think that’s pretty reasonable given we’re putting a human on top of a missile, shooting him into space, and it’s never been done before. Because it’s never been done, everything we do between now and then is going matter. It’s gonna matter to their wives, to their children. I believe it’s going matter to the whole damn country. So this Space Task Group will be as advertised. America’s greatest engineering and scientific minds are not going to have a problem with having their work checked. Are they, Paul?
Paul Stafford: No, sir.
Al Harrison: Good. So let’s have an amen, damn it.
NASA Worker: Amen. Amen!
Al Harrison: Alright.
[Dorothy is driving them home from work]
Dorothy Vaughan: I haven’t been late one day in ten years. Haven’t been out sick. Haven’t complained. My work’s on time. It’s done right, it’s done well.
Mary Jackson: It’s not fair, that’s a fact.
Dorothy Vaughan: What’s not fair is having the responsibility of a supervisor, but not the title or the pay. And watching you two move on. Now, don’t get me wrong. Any upward movement is movement for us all, just isn’t movement for me.
Katherine Johnson: Truth be told, Dorothy, I don’t even know if I can keep up in that room. I’ll be back with the computers in a week, or out of a job entirely.
Dorothy Vaughan: Oh, please. You’re better with the numbers than anyone in there, Katherine, and you know it. Just make that pencil move as fast as your mind does you’ll be fine. And you, have some respect. Get your damn feet off my dashboard. This isn’t your living room. I sound like a supervisor, don’t I?
Mary Jackson: A mean old salty one.
Katherine Johnson: Riddled with authority, no question.
[Katherine and Mary laugh]
Dorothy Vaughan: You don’t mess with Mrs. Vaughan.
Mary Jackson: Turn that music up.
Katherine Johnson: You’re supposed to been asleep a long time ago.
Kathy Johnson: We just wanted to say goodnight. You’ve been gone for three hundred hours.
Katherine Johnson: I know, I work a full-time job now. You all know that. I have to be Mommy and Daddy. I miss your father just as much as anyone.
Kathy Johnson: He’s with the angels.
Katherine Johnson: Yes, he’s with all the angels.
Kathy Johnson: And he’s watching over us.
Katherine Johnson: Every minute, okay? That’s why we have to be strong. Alright?
Joylette, Constance, Kathy: Yes, Mama.
Katherine Johnson: Y’all get some rest, okay?
Constance Johnson: Mama?
Katherine Johnson: Yes, baby?
Constance Johnson: Are the Russians fixing to attack us?
Katherine Johnson: Where did you get that from?
Joylette Johnson: We had to hide under our desks today, all scrunched up.
Katherine Johnson: Okay, baby, that’s called a drill. It means, uh, you practice safety just in case something happens. Truth is, we don’t know what they’re doing up there.
Constance Johnson: You going to space, too?
Katherine Johnson: No, baby. But I’m going to do what I can to help those brave men get there. Yes, I am.
Kathy Johnson: You could fly up to space if you wanted to, Mama. You could be an astronaut.
Levi Jackson: [to Mary] I don’t want to see you get hurt. NASA’s never ever given you guys your due. Having a couple of extra degree ain’t gonna change that. Civil rights ain’t always civil.
Mary Jackson: That Colonel Jim is a tall glass of water.
Dorothy Vaughan: That he is. Tall, strong, demanding.
Mary Jackson: And I bet he’s like it day and night.
Katherine Johnson: Mary, it’s Sunday. Please have some shame.
Mary Jackson: I will not.
Dorothy Vaughan: Hmm, I think he’s smiling over here.
Mary Jackson: [to Katherine] At you.
Katherine Johnson: Well I’m not smiling back.
Dorothy Vaughan: Yes, you are.
Mary Jackson: Oh, child, you are all teeth right now.
Katherine Johnson: I am not.
[Mary indicates to Jim to come over to them]
Mary Jackson: He’s coming over.
Katherine Johnson: Now why would he be doing that?
Dorothy Vaughan: Because Mary’s waving at him.
Katherine Johnson: No! Ladies, I’m not ready…
Mary Jackson: Sshh. It’s too late. Fix your hair.
Dorothy Vaughan: Hello, Colonel. I’m Dorothy Vaughn. That’s Mary Jackson, I believe you met her husband, Levi.
Colonel Jim Johnson: Yes, ma’am. Nice to meet you all.
Dorothy Vaughan: And this is Katherine Goble.
Mary Jackson: She’s not married. She’s a widower, with three beautiful little girls, so well-behaved. Angels on earth is what we like to call them. Dorothy, slice of pie?
Dorothy Vaughan: I’d love one. Excuse me.
[Mary and Dorothy start to walk off leaving Katherine alone with Jim]
Katherine Johnson: You already have a slice of pie, Dorothy.
Dorothy Vaughan: Uh-huh.
Colonel Jim Johnson: Pastor mentioned you’re a computer at NASA.
Katherine Johnson: Yes.
Colonel Jim Johnson: What’s that entail?
Katherine Johnson: Oh, we calculate the mathematics necessary to enable launch and landing for the space program.
Colonel Jim Johnson: That’s pretty heady stuff.
Katherine Johnson: Yes, it is.
Colonel Jim Johnson: They let women handle that sort of…
[Katherine looks offended]
Colonel Jim Johnson: That’s not what I mean.
Katherine Johnson: What do you mean?
Colonel Jim Johnson: I’m just surprised that something so taxing…
Katherine Johnson: Mm-hmm. Mr. Johnson, if I were you I’d quit talking right now.
Colonel Jim Johnson: I didn’t mean no disrespect.
Katherine Johnson: I will have you know I was the first Negro female student at West Virginia University Graduate School. On any given day, I analyze the manometer levels for air displacement, friction, and velocity, and compute over ten thousand calculations by cosine, square root, and lately, Analytic Geometry, by hand. There are twenty bright, highly capable Negro women in the West Computing Group, and we’re proud to be doing our part for the country. So, yes, they let women do some things at NASA, Mr. Johnson, and it’s not because we wear skirts. It’s because we wear glasses. Have a good day.
Dorothy Vaughan: That’s Alan Shepard, US Navy pilot. He could be the first man in space. And that’s Scott Carpenter and Walter Schirra, also Navy pilots. All under 5’11”, a hundred eighty pounds. IQs over 130.
Katherine Johnson: Mmm.
Mary Jackson: And handsome must be a requirement too.
Katherine Johnson: How could you possibly be ogling these white men?
Mary Jackson: Well, it’s equal rights. I have the right to see fine in every color.
Dorothy Vaughan: That’s John Glenn. He’s the only Marine Corps pilot.
Ruth: Gentlemen, if we may, much to see around here.
John Glenn: Well, heck, we haven’t shaken all the hands yet.
Ruth: We have a fairly tight itinerary, Colonel.
Al Harrison: Ruth, he’s fine.
[referring to Glenn]
Dorothy Vaughan: He’s coming this way.
Katherine Johnson: Look straight ahead.
Mary Jackson: I’m looking right at him.
John Glenn: Ladies, I didn’t want to run off without saying hello. Seem to be in a big rush around here.
Dorothy Vaughan: Well, the Russians certainly aren’t slowing down any.
John Glenn: They can’t build a damn refrigerator, how the heck did they beat us into space? What do you ladies do for NASA?
Katherine Johnson: Calculate your trajectories. Launch and landing.
John Glenn: You can’t get anywhere without the numbers.
Katherine Johnson: No, sir.
Mary Jackson: Mary Jackson, Mr. Glenn. Engineering, and I’m proud as the devil to be working with you.
John Glenn: Thank you, Mary.
Paul Stafford: How did you know that Redstone couldn’t support orbital flight? That’s classified information. It’s top secret.
Katherine Johnson: Well, it’s no secret why the Redstone tests keep failing. It’s fine for sub-orbital flight, but it can’t handle the weight of the capsule and push it into space. Numbers don’t lie.
Al Harrison: And you figured all that out with this? Half the data is redacted.
Katherine Johnson: Well what’s there tells a story if you read between the lines. The distance from launch to orbit, we know. Redstone mass, we know. Mercury capsule weight, we know. And the speeds are there in the data.
Al Harrison: You did the math.
Katherine Johnson: Yes, sir. I looked beyond.
Al Harrison: And how do you know about the Atlas rocket? That’s not math. That data is not here, like you said, it’s classified.
Katherine Johnson: I held it up to the light.
Al Harrison: You held it up to the light.
Katherine Johnson: Yes, sir.
[he holds up one of the papers to the light with the redacted information]
Al Harrison: Well, there it is. Atlas. What’s your name?
Katherine Johnson: Katherine Goble.
Al Harrison: Are you a spy, Katherine?
Katherine Johnson: Am I what?
Al Harrison: I said, are you a Russian spy?
Katherine Johnson: No, sir. I’m not Russian.
Ruth: She’s not Russian, sir.
Al Harrison: Alright then, we have nothing to lose here. Give her everything she needs to work on Shepard’s trajectories without redaction. Are we clear on that?
Paul Stafford: Are we sure about this?
Al Harrison: What’s the issue, Paul? You heard her. She’s not a spy.
Paul Stafford: I, I just don’t think it’s a good idea.
Al Harrison: Well, you know what I think is a good idea? Darker ink. I think darker ink is a good idea. Ruth, could you pass it along?
Ruth: Yes, sir.
Al Harrison: Thank you, Katherine.
Katherine Johnson: Thank you, sir.
[Katherine and Ruth leave Harrison’s office]
Al Harrison: This interrogation’s over.
Vivian Mitchell: NASA doesn’t commission females for the Engineer Training Program.
Mary Jackson: That position is available to any qualified applicant.
Vivian Mitchell: Right, except, you don’t have the educational requirements.
Mary Jackson: I have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physical science. It’s the same as most engineers around here.
Vivian Mitchell: Well, we now require advanced extension courses through the University of Virginia. It’s in the employee handbook, in addendum.
[she drops the handbook on the table]
Vivian Mitchell: In case you haven’t read it.
Mary Jackson: Every time we have a chance to get ahead, they move the finish line.
Vivian Mitchell: I just follow the rules around here, and I expect everyone who works for me to follow them as well. There are no special circumstances for anyone. You all should be thankful you have jobs at all.
Dorothy Vaughan: Separate and equal are two different things. Just cause it’s the way, doesn’t make it right. Understand?
Leonard Vaughan: Yes, mama.
Dorothy Vaughan: You act right, you are right. That’s for certain.
Colonel Jim Johnson: I believe I owe you an apology.
Katherine Johnson: Well, was that it?
Colonel Jim Johnson: Can I make it while we dance?
[Jim offers Katherine his hand, she finally decides to take it and dance with him]
Colonel Jim Johnson: I’m afraid I simply misspoke the other day, Mrs. Goble. I’ve been away for a long time. I imagine I’m just out of practice.
Katherine Johnson: Mm-hmm.
Colonel Jim Johnson: I was hoping you’d allow me to start over.
Katherine Johnson: Mm-hmm.
Colonel Jim Johnson: See, the thing is I have an interest in getting to know you better.
Katherine Johnson: Mm-hmm.
Colonel Jim Johnson: You’re one tough customer, huh?
Katherine Johnson: You haven’t said you’re sorry yet.
Colonel Jim Johnson: Right. Of course. I’m sorry, Katherine.
Katherine Johnson: For what, Jim?
Colonel Jim Johnson: Underestimating you, and any other woman like you, though I don’t imagine there’s many.
Katherine Johnson: That’s good practice, right there.
Al Harrison: We’re in the fight of our lives, people. We’re not on some epic joy ride. I just saw seven faces who aren’t sure that we can get there. This is our problem, and so as of right now there’s only two things you need to know going forward. One is staying here, working late, that’s going to be a fact of life. And two, don’t expect your paychecks to reflect the extra time it’s going to take to catch up and pass those bastards. For those of you who can’t work that way, I understand and thank you for what you’ve done. For everyone else, I suggest you call your wives and tell them how it’s going to be. I’ll start with mine.
Dorothy Vaughan: The IBM 7090 data processing system. It has the capability of solving over twenty-four thousand multiplications per second.
West Area Computer Woman #1: Holy Moses, that’s lightning fast.
West Area Computer Woman #2: They’ll never get that to work.
Dorothy Vaughan: Oh, it’ll run eventually, and when it does, we have to know how to program it. Unless you’d rather be out of a job.
West Area Computer Women: No, ma’am.
Al Harrison: Where the hell have you been? Everywhere I look, you’re not where I need you to be. It’s not my imagination. Now where the hell do you go every day?
Katherine Johnson: To the bathroom, sir.
Al Harrison: To the bathroom? To the damn bathroom. For forty minutes a day? What do you do in there? We’re T-minus zero here, I put a lot of faith in you.
Katherine Johnson: There’s no bathroom for me here.
Al Harrison: What do you mean there is no bathroom for you here?
Katherine Johnson: There is no bathroom.There are no colored bathrooms in this building or any building outside the West Campus, which is half a mile away. Did you know that? I have to walk to Timbuktu just to relieve myself, and I can’t use one of the handy bikes. Picture that, Mr. Harrison. My uniform, skirt below my knees, my heels, and a simple string of pearls. Well, I don’t own pearls. Lord knows you don’t pay coloreds enough to afford pearls! And I work like a dog, day and night, living off of coffee from a pot none of you want to touch! So, excuse me if I have to go to the restroom a few times a day.
[taking down the signs for “colored ladies room”]
Al Harrison: There you have it. No more colored restrooms. No more white restrooms. Just plain old toilets. Go wherever you damn well please. Preferably closer to your desk. Here at NASA, we all pee the same color.
Mary Jackson: Good morning, Your Honor.
Judge: Hampton High School was a white school, Mrs. Jackson.
Mary Jackson: Yes, Your Honor, I’m aware of that.
Judge: Virginia, still a segregated state. Regardless of what the federal government says, regardless of what the Supreme Court says, our law is the law.
Mary Jackson: Your Honor, if I may.I believe there are special circumstances to be considered.
Judge: What would warrant a colored woman attending a white school?
Mary Jackson: May I approach your bench, sir?
[Mary is allowed to approach the bench]
Mary Jackson: Your Honor, you of all people should understand the importance of being first.
Judge: How is that, Mrs. Jackson?
Mary Jackson: Well you were the first in your family to serve in the Armed Forces, US navy, the first to attend university, George Mason, and the first state judge to be recommissioned by three consecutive governors.
Judge: You’ve done some research.
Mary Jackson: Yes, sir.
Judge: What’s the point?
Mary Jackson: The point is, Your Honor, no Negro woman in the state of Virginia has ever attended an all-white high school. It’s unheard of.
Judge: Yeah, unheard of.
Mary Jackson: And before Alan Shepard sat on top of a rocket, no other American had ever touched space. And now, he will forever be remembered as the US Navy man from New Hampshire, the first to touch the stars. And I, sir, I plan on being an engineer at NASA, but I can’t do that without taking them classes at that all-white high school, and I can’t change the color of my skin. So I have no choice but to be the first. Which I can’t do without you, sir. Your Honor, out of all the cases you’re going to hear today, which one is going to matter a hundred years from now? Which one is going to make you the first?
Judge: Only the night classes, Mrs. Jackson.
Katherine Johnson: Gus Grissom’s coordinates, uh, I’d like to get a jump on John Glenn’s trajectory.
Paul Stafford: Do you have any idea what you’re asking?
Katherine Johnson: An orbital launch with an Atlas rocket is going to take time.
Al Harrison: Is there a problem?
Katherine Johnson: Mr. Harrison, I was wondering.
Al Harrison: Uh-huh, I’ve been wondering my whole life, so you just spit it out.
Katherine Johnson: Well, sir, I would like to get a jump on John Glenn’s trajectory.
Al Harrison: This isn’t about plugging in numbers, it’s about inventing the math. And I think you and I talked about that, right? It doesn’t exist.
Katherine Johnson: I can do it, sir.
Paul Stafford: Do you have any idea how exacting these calculations have to be?
Katherine Johnson: It’s like shooting a sawed-off shotgun from a thousand feet and getting that one BB through a hole so tiny, you can’t even see it.
Al Harrison: Okay, let me see what you’ve got.
Katherine Johnson: I’m an excellent shot, sir.
Al Harrison: How have our Grissom numbers been?
Paul Stafford: They’ve been spot on.
Al Harrison: [to Katherine] Give Glenn’s orbit a go. But you run it all through Stafford, understood?
Katherine Johnson: Yes, sir. Thank you.
[as Stafford is explaining to the other NASA engineers]
Katherine Johnson: So the capsule will spin around the Earth forever because there’s nothing to slow it down?
Paul Stafford: That’s right. Slowing it down at precisely the right moment, at precisely the right amount, that’s the task.
[Katherine puts up her hand]
Paul Stafford: Yes, Katherine.
Katherine Johnson: So it needs to move from an elliptical orbit to a parabolic orbit.
Paul Stafford: Yes. That’s the Go-No-Go. Now at this point, it’s a pin head. We bring him in too soon…
Sam Turner: He burns up on reentry.
Paul Stafford: That’s right. We bring him in too late, he’s pushed out of Earth’s gravity.
Katherine Johnson: And any changes to mass, weight, speed, time, distance, friction, or a puff of wind would alter the Go-No-Go and we’d start our calculations over.
Paul Stafford: Yes. So we need to be able to choose this reentry point. Now this Go-No-Go, this has to be exact.
Katherine Johnson: Sir, if I could attend the briefings, I could stay current.
Paul Stafford: Katherine, we have been through this. It is not possible. There is no protocol for women attending.
Katherine Johnson: There’s no protocol for a man circling the Earth either, sir.
Paul Stafford: Okay. That is just the way things are.
Katherine Johnson: Colonel Glenn’s launch coordinates, accounting for the window change, sir.
Paul Stafford: I have told you this, computers don’t author reports. Fix it.
Katherine Johnson: Those are my calculations, my name should be on it.
Paul Stafford: That is not the way this works.
Al Harrison: Paul, what’s happening here?
Katherine Johnson: Mr. Harrison, I would like to attend today’s briefing.
Al Harrison: And why is that?
Katherine Johnson: Well, sir, the data changes so fast, the capsule changes, the weight and the landing zones are all changing everyday. I do my work, you attend these briefings, I have to start over. Colonel Glenn launches in a few weeks, we don’t have the math figured out yet.
Al Harrison: And why is it she can’t attend?
Paul Stafford: Because she doesn’t have clearance, Al.
Katherine Johnson: I cannot do my work effectively if I do not have all of the data and all of the information as soon as it’s available. I need to be in that room hearing what you hear.
Paul Stafford: Pentagon briefings are not for civilians. It requires the highest clearance.
Katherine Johnson: I feel like I’m the best person to present my calculation.
Al Harrison: You’re not going to let this go, are you?
Katherine Johnson: No, I am not.
Paul Stafford: And she is a woman. There is no protocol for a woman to attend these meetings.
Al Harrison: Okay, I get that part, Paul. But within these walls who, uh, who makes the rules?
Katherine Johnson: You, sir, you are the boss. You just have to act like one, sir.
Al Harrison: We’re orbiting the Earth at what speed now?
Paul Stafford: Uh…
[looks through his papers]
Katherine Johnson: Seventeen thousand five hundred and forty-four miles per hour, at the time the rocket delivers the capsule into low space orbit.
John Glenn: Well, that’s one hell of a speeding ticket.
[the men in the room laugh]
Jim Webb: Okay. So we have vehicle speed in the launch window and, for arguments sake, the landing zone is the Bahamas, should be enough to figure the Go-No-Go?
Paul Stafford: Yeah, in theory, sir.
Jim Webb: We need to be past theory at this point.
Al Harrison: We’ll be able to calculate a Go-No-Go with that information.
Jim Webb: When exactly is that going to happen?
Al Harrison: Katherine, have a go at it.
[he hands her the white chalk and she goes over to the board]
Katherine Johnson: The go point for re-entry is two thousand nine hundred ninety miles from where we want Colonel Glenn to land. If we assume that’s the Bahamas, at seventeen thousand five hundred and forty-four miles per hour, upon re-entry three hundred seventy feet, at a descent angle of 46.56 degrees. The distance velocity squared, sine gravity squared. Sine, thirty-two feet, and the distance would be twenty million five hundred and thirty thousand three hundred seventy-two feet, or two thousand nine hundred ninety miles or 46.33 degrees. Okay, so that puts your landing zone at 5.0667 degrees North, 77.3333 degrees West. Which is here.
[goes over to the map and points to the area]
Katherine Johnson: Right here. Give or take twenty square miles.
John Glenn: I like her numbers.
Dorothy Vaughan: Me?
Vivian Mitchell: Temporarily, yes. We need the IBM for Glenn’s launch. The lead engineer says you’re good with the cards, programming and such.
Dorothy Vaughan: What about the girls here?
Vivian Mitchell: Well, human computers can’t calculate an orbital flight in the time we have. They’ll stay put for now.
Dorothy Vaughan: What about after now?
Vivian Mitchell: After Glenn’s launch, NASA’s dissolving the computing groups.
Dorothy Vaughan: I’m not accepting reassignment unless I bring my ladies with me.
Vivian Mitchell: Excuse me?
Dorothy Vaughan: We’re going to need a lot of manpower to program that beast. I can’t do it alone. My gals are ready, they can do the work.
Al Harrison: You know what your job is, Paul? Find the genius among those geniuses, to pull us all up. We all get to the peak together or we don’t get there at all.
[going to her night class]
Mary Jackson: I’m Mary Jackson. I’m enrolled.
Night School Professor: Well, the curriculum is not designed for teaching a woman.
Mary Jackson: Well I imagine it’s the same as teaching a man. I don’t see a colored section. Should I just take any seat?
[the professor indicates yes]
Mary Jackson: Thank you.
Vivian Mitchell: You know, Dorothy, despite what you may think I have nothing against y’all.
Dorothy Vaughan: I know. I know you probably believe that.
Al Harrison: The IBM’s been spot-on up to this point, John. But we’ll run it again, see what it comes up with.
John Glenn: Look, I’m going to be honest with you, Al. When I fly, I fly the machine. And right now it seems like this machine is flying me.
Al Harrison: We’re on the same page, John. Our guys are on it.
John Glenn: Let’s get the girl to check the numbers.
Al Harrison: The girl?
John Glenn: Yes, sir.
Al Harrison: You mean Katherine?
John Glenn: Yes, sir. The smart one. I mean, she says they’re good, I’m ready to go.
Al Harrison: Alright. We’ll get into it.
Vivian Mitchell: New assignment came down the pike. Always changing around here, it’s hard to keep up. Seems like they’re going to need a permanent team to feed that IBM.
Dorothy Vaughan: How big of a team?
Vivian Mitchell: Thirty, to start.
Dorothy Vaughan: Thank you for the information, Mrs. Mitchell.
Vivian Mitchell: You’re quite welcome, Mrs. Vaughan.
[Dorothy looks a little shocked as Vivian calls her by her last name for the first time out of respect]
[after their successful launch and landing back in the ocean with Katherine help]
Al Harrison: Katherine. Nice work.
Katherine Johnson: You too, Mr. Harrison.
Al Harrison: So, um, you think we can get to the moon?
Katherine Johnson: We’re already there, sir.
Al Harrison: [chuckling] Yeah.
Total Quotes: 47