Entertainment Movies Katherine Johnson, Legendary Mathematician and Inspiration for the Upcoming Film 'Hidden Figures' , Turns 98 Hidden Figures hits theaters Jan. 13 By Jodi Guglielmi Jodi Guglielmi Instagram Twitter Writer-Reporter, PEOPLE People Editorial Guidelines Published on August 26, 2016 05:10 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Mandy Walker Legendary NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson has turned 98. Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory for Project Mercury and later Apollo’s 1969 flight to moon, celebrated her milestone birthday on Friday. Along with helping the United States win the Space Race for NASA, Johnson also worked on the Space Shuttle program, the Earth Resources Satellite and plans for the mission to Mars. Her work has also inspired the upcoming biopic Hidden Figures, in which she will be portrayed by Taraji P. Henson. The film will follow Johnson, along with her colleagues Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monée), as they work to discover the calculations that helped the first American astronaut make a complete orbit around the Earth. The film is based on the novel of the same name from author Margot Lee Shetterly with the screenplay co-written by Allison Schroeder and director Theodore Melfi. Hidden Figures hits theaters Jan. 13.