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NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson (C) with producer Caroline Waterlow (L) and director Ezra Edelman (R) of "Hidden Figures." Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, whose calculations helped astronauts reach orbit and eventually land on the Moon, died Monday at 101.

Why it matters: Her work, dramatized in the 2016 film "Hidden Figures," helped to create some of the agency's core mathematical principles behind manned space travel.

  • While she wasn't the first black woman to work as a NASA mathematician, her barrier-breaking story was key in recognizing the achievements that African American scientists contributed to spaceflight during the 1960s.

The big picture: Johnson's work "was overshadowed in the popular imagination by the life-risking astronauts whose flights she calculated, and to a lesser extent by the department heads under whom she served," the Washington Post writes.

  • Former President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.
  • She downplayed the importance of her role in the early years of the space program after the release of "Hidden Figures," telling the Post in 2017 that she was "just doing [her] job."

The bottom line, via the lead sentence of the New York Times' obituary: "They asked Katherine Johnson for the Moon, and she gave it to them."

Go deeper: Why an all-female spacewalk took so long

Go deeper

America rebalances its post-Trump news diet

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Nearly halfway through President Biden's first 100 days, data shows that Americans are learning to wean themselves off of news — and especially politics.

Why it matters: The departure of former President Trump's once-ubiquitous presence in the news cycle has reoriented the country's attention.

2021 sees a record number of bills targeting trans youth

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Republicans in at least 25 states have introduced over 60 bills targeting transgender children — a legislative boom since January that has beaten 2020's total number of anti-trans bills.

Why it matters: LGBTQ advocates say the unprecedented push was catalyzed by backlash to Biden's election and the Supreme Court ruling that workers cannot be fired for being gay or transgender.

Why migrants are fleeing their homes for the U.S.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios Photo: Herika Martinez /Getty Images 

Natural disasters in Central America, economic devastation, gang wars, political oppression, and a new administration are all driving the sharp rise in U.S.-Mexico border crossings — a budding crisis for President Biden.

Why it matters: Migration flows are complex and quickly politicized. Biden's policies are likely sending signals that are encouraging the surge — but that's only a small reason it's happening.