I Watched the Movie Hidden Figures Last Night About the American Perspective of NASA to Put a Human into Space and Also the Perspective of Three African American Women Who Worked Behind the Scenes to Make it Happen With Complex Math

Essay by Luke Foster

Hidden Figures is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi and written by Melfi and Allison Schroeder. It is loosely based on the 2016 non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly about three female African-American mathematicians: Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), who worked at NASA during the Space Race. Other stars include Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, and Glen Powell.

I am not sure why I related to this movie so much as at school I loathed math and I was terrible. My brother was two years older than me and was a genius at math and helped me cram for my HSC exam and after doing no homework or study for the two final years of school in math. I fell over the line with my lowest subject score of 64%.

What struck me about the movie as I thought about it while beach walking this morning was two aspects firstly how much of a break through it was for America and NASA that African American women played an important role in calculating the maths to launch a human into orbit around earth and land him safely back on earth.

The second factor that dawned on me was that at the time that this was set was the beginning of the civil rights movement in America and as it showed in the movie the main character wasn’t even allowed to go to the same bathroom as the other women and had to go to the other side of the NASA complex to go to the bathroom.

My favourite scene in the movie was when the NASA director of the project Al Harrison played by Kevin Costner took a crow bar to the coloured women’s bathroom sign and said to her you can go to the other women’s bathroom.

The movie also showed how they used an IBM computer to do the numbers which took up a whole big room that I imagine would be the size of a small desktop computer these days to do the same job.

I was also thinking that sometimes competition between nations can have a beneficial effect for both nations and the space race between Russia and America is one example of this as not only America and Russia benefited from this but the whole world benefited as the technology and scientific discoveries benefited all humanity.

So, in our current generation the space frontier is still changing all the time with plans to put a space colony on Mars.

I think in this generation there is a healthy kind of competition between nations to find the answers to the biggest problems facing humanity not only in space but here on earth too such as saving the environment and eradicating global poverty. It’s even better when groups of nations work together to solve these complex problems which seems to be happening a lot.

I think Condoleezza Rice and Barack Obama and his family would love this movie as it shows a turning point in American history when African Americans and particularly women started to hold the most difficult and prestigious positions.

“We All Get to The Peak Together, Or We Don’t Get There at All.” 

Kevin Costner as Al Harrison

I like this quote by Al Harrison as it showed the kind of team work that the NASA team had to make their goals possible.

In conclusion its not just important to have healthy competition in science but in the arts and sport too such as the Olympics and the Olympics of art the Venice Biennale. As in this competition nations and individuals are pushed to achieve what previously seemed the unachievable.