Five storied female NASA pioneers will soon grace toy-store shelves in Lego form, and two have Swarthmore ties.
Lego announced last week that it is producing a Women of NASA set, submitted by science writer Maia Weinstock. Among the five are Nancy Grace Roman '46, NASA's chief astronomer and "mother" of the Hubble telescope and Sally Ride '72, the first U.S. woman in space who attended the College from 1968 to 1970. The other three women are computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, astronaut Mae Jemison, and mathematician Katherine Johnson.
"Women have played critical roles throughout the history of the U.S. space program," Weinstock told NPR. "Yet in many cases, their contributions are unknown or under-appreciated – especially as women have historically struggled to gain acceptance in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics."
An honorary degree recipient in 1976, Roman was one of the first female executives at NASA and was critical in the development of the Hubble telescope.
"As my career shows, the greatest gift I received from Swarthmore was the ability and eagerness to learn new things," says Roman in The Meaning of Swarthmore. "The College gave me a good background in the fundamentals of my field that permitted me to understand problems, techniques, and instruments well outside my research experience. I am the only person I know who did not have any English courses in college, but writing seminar papers was a great learning experience. I think my biggest asset in my NASA job was the ability to speak and write easily and well."
Learn more about the Women of NASA Lego set at NPR and watch Roman reflect on her time at Swarthmore below.