Meet Poppy Northcutt, the Woman Who Helped Bring the Apollo 11 Astronauts Home Safely

From TIME authored by Olivia B. Waxman:

“The boundary broken by the Apollo 11 astronauts, when they became the first humans to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969, is one of the most famous in history. But the Apollo program also saw other kinds of boundaries broken back on Earth.

For example, Frances “Poppy” Northcutt was the first woman to work in an operational support role in the Mission Control Center in Houston during the Apollo program.

There were a lot of women in computer programming roles at the time — as the 2016 movie Hidden Figures made clear — and Northcutt started out in one of those roles at NASA straight out of college in 1965, shortly after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin. She majored in math (a not-uncommon field for women at the time, as many became math teachers) and had taken a celestial mechanics course. Her title was “computress.”

“What a weird title this is,” she tells TIME she recalls thinking. ‘Not only do they think I’m a computer, but they think I’m a gendered computer.’”

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