The biopic 'Hidden Figures' nabbed the top spot at the box office two week in a row, making a solid mark on an American history moviegoers thought they knew-- even if those moviegoers used to do work for NASA.
When Janice Hicks worked for 24 years as an executive assistant with a space and defense company contracted with NASA, she had no clue about Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan or Mary Jackson -- the three black women whose lives inspired the biopic 'Hidden Figures.' Still, she says, "I have to give NASA credit in the highest because they hired black women."
Chivon Parks, Janice's daughter agrees. Chivon accompanied her Mom on one of the shuttle launches. "Back then you didn't read about any of this in school. It's amazing to learn this now, but it's frustrating to not have known back then."
Janice worked through the space and defense company TRW (later Northrop Grumman), who worked directly with NASA. "Not everyone [who worked for TRW] got to that," she remembers. She was responsible, among other things, for looking at data real time to help coordinate successful satellite launches on all of the shuttle missions. "We worked with the engineers," recalls Janice. "During the first launch, the satellite spun out of orbit and we had to get the satellite to use its thrusters to get back on track."
Other missions were not successful. Janice recalls the Challenger explosion in vivid detail, sharing with Offramp producer Taylor Orci her private collection of memorabilia. "Here they are wearing our borrowed lab coats," she says, bittersweetly, pointing to a group photo of some of the Challenger crew standing in front of a giant satellite covered in dark gold mylar. Sorting through a collection of time-lapsed photos of the Challenger launch, she points as the clouds surrounding the shuttle before take off. "I told my boss, 'Something's wrong. Those clouds look dark." She shrugs, "He said it was normal."
"I kept looking at the movie and then looking at my Mom to see what her reaction was," Chivon says of watching 'Hidden Figures' with her Mom. "I knew what they were talking about because my Mom had told me about it." Janice adds, "I'm proud my children understand what I did. Yes it was exhausting, but it was fun, and I loved it."
Janice received a 'Members Only' jacket during her time at NASA, and got a patch for every shuttle mission she was a part of. Her daughter Chivon, now a fashion designer for a big-name label, says she's tried to get her hands on the one-of-a-kind piece forever. "I could wear in starting in high school. Before then, I couldn't even breathe on it."
Chivon's not the only one who wants her Mom's jacket. Janice reflects, "I wore that jacket when I went to see Hidden Figures in honor of those ladies," she said. When people approached her and asked where they could buy her jacket, she responded, "You can't buy this jacket. I worked this jacket."