Author: Margot lee Shetterly

To Boldly Go – Summary

In July 1969, a group of black women, some of whom were the daughters and granddaughters of domestic workers, came together for a weekend to discuss the advancement of women like them and to use their talents to better their community. As they conducted their meeting, they watched the historic moon landing on a small black-and-white television, joining millions of people around the world. Among them was Katherine Johnson, who divided her attention between the leadership conference and the Apollo 11 mission, using her mathematical skills to follow the spacecraft’s journey.

The Hillside was an upscale retreat for African Americans. Katherine Johnson and her sorority sisters often stayed there and enjoyed the camaraderie and high standards of the women. Despite the past discrimination, Katherine and the others had worked hard to achieve success in their careers, and the retreat provided them with a much-needed opportunity to relax and enjoy each other’s company. However, not everyone shared in the enthusiasm for the Apollo 11 moon landing, as some questioned the use of billions of dollars to send white men to the moon while African Americans faced discrimination and oppression at home. Despite the excitement surrounding the space program, the civil rights movement had not achieved all of its goals by the time of the moon landing.

Chapter 23 of “Hidden Figures” highlights the lack of recognition and visibility that black NASA employees faced during the space race, even within their own communities. They were known more for their involvement in social organizations and community activities, rather than their contributions to NASA.

However, the popular TV show “Star Trek,” which premiered in 1966, portrayed a future where diversity was embraced and celebrated. The character of Lieutenant Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, was a black woman serving as the Enterprise’s communications officer. When Nichols contemplated leaving the show to focus on her Broadway career, she was persuaded to stay by none other than civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King recognized the importance of having a black woman represented in a position of authority and praised the groundbreaking nature of Nichols’ role on the show.

Having a black person represented on a TV show about space is important because it helps black people feel included in a major accomplishment of the United States. The African-American community views the character Uhura on Star Trek as a symbol of progress towards equal rights, as progress in society and technology often happen together.

The chapter also touches on Katherine’s fascination with space and the wonder she felt imagining herself in the astronauts’ place during the Apollo mission. She believed that science and space were fields where talent and results were what mattered, not a person’s race or gender. Katherine had worked hard for the advancement of US technology and was a leader in the black community. She credits other women and black teachers for helping her succeed and thinks about the future possibilities that were once unimaginable without their efforts.

In 1969, the Apollo 11 mission successfully landed humans on the moon. Katherine Johnson had worked hard to calculate the trajectory for the mission. She had confidence in her numbers and believed that everyone involved had done their best.

Despite the risks, the mission succeeded, and Neil Armstrong planted his foot on the moon’s surface. However, there were still challenges ahead, like getting the astronauts back to Earth safely. Katherine was already thinking about the next steps in space exploration, like a trip to Mars. She believed that once you take the first step, anything is possible.



Where did Katherine watch the moon landing from? Why is the location and people she was with significant? Were you surprised to learn that’s where she was?

Katherine Johnson watched the moon landing from a resort called the Hillside Inn in the Poconos. She was there for a leadership conference held by her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. The location and the people she was with are significant because the Hillside Inn was the only resort in the Poconos with black owners, and it welcomed all guests, including black people.

This was significant because most resorts in the Poconos at the time barred black people and even Jews. The Hillside Inn provided black people with the same vacation experience that white people enjoyed. The sorority conference was a break from both her work at Langley and the hot climate in Hampton, Virginia. She was with other black women who were members of her sorority.

The chapter suggests that the resort was a rare and special place during that time period, as segregation and discrimination were prevalent in many parts of the United States. However, I was not surprised to learn where Katherine was because the Poconos resort was a place that welcomed black people and provided them with the same vacation experience as white people.


Why did some people think the space program was a waste of money?

Some people thought that the space program was a waste of money because they believed that the United States had more pressing issues to address, such as civil rights and poverty. They felt that it was not right to spend so much money on sending white men to the moon when many black people could not even travel freely within the country without facing discrimination.

The space program cost $24 billion, and many people felt that this money could have been better spent addressing social and economic inequalities. The civil rights movement and the space program both began with optimism and idealism about American democracy, but by the 1970s, many civil rights goals had not been achieved. Two hundred protesters, led by the Reverend Ralph Abernathy, went to Cape Kennedy before the launch of the space program to challenge its worthiness when many people were struggling to put food on the table and find adequate housing.


How is the actress Nichelle Nichols talked into staying in her role on Star Trek? Why is that role significant to African Americans at this time? What kind of progress does it represent?

In the TV show Star Trek, which started airing in the US in 1966, Lieutenant Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, was the communications officer on the starship Enterprise. She was a black woman and represented diversity in a future where people of different races and genders worked together.

When the first season ended, Nichols decided to leave the show to focus on her Broadway career. However, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. convinced her to stay by telling her that her role was important because it showed that black people could be imagined in the future, and that her character’s position on the ship mirrored that of the US Air Force.

This was a significant moment for African Americans because it represented progress towards equality. Nichols eventually decided to stay on the show.


What kind of accomplishment was it for Katherine and the workers of Langley for the Eagle to land safely during the Apollo mission on the surface of the moon?

It was a great accomplishment for Katherine Johnson and the workers of Langley for the Eagle to land safely during the Apollo mission on the surface of the moon. This was because the landing was the most dangerous part of the mission, and it was impossible to rehearse beforehand.

The Apollo 11 astronauts had given the mission only a middling chance of success, but Katherine Johnson had confidence in her calculations. After more than a decade of hard work and dedication, the actual landing matched the numbers of her equations. This success showed that anything was possible if you took the first step.

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