Hidden Figures touches on a relatively grave scientific injustice that’s only now being rectified. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson were key players in the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission, which was the first mission to see an astronaut orbit the Earth. Easily forgotten today is that what Glenn did was purely theoretical until it was actually done: An enormous amount of theoretical physics and raw number crunching had to be performed by these women in order to ensure Glenn got into orbit and came back safely. But the contributions of all three have been minimized or simply not acknowledged until recently. So you’d think a movie about this would be entirely serious drama, making the trailer open with the cast busting each other’s chops while stranded by the side of the road in Florida a bit of a surprise.
The levity is a nice touch, especially since it’d be easy to be in awe of these women. Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson), helped rescue the Apollo 13 astronauts, Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) was crucial in aeronautics research for decades, and Jackson (Janelle Monáe) helped build a NASA that found talent beyond just white guys in crew cuts. It is a particularly exciting moment to revisit now because we’re on the cusp of a new space race. Humanity really wants to get to Mars, and these women are to thank for what we know about doing it. We’ll see more of what they dealt with January 6th.