BLACK HISTORY MONTH

Remembering Dr. Gladys West

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NASA can’t live without it.

Neither can much of today’s travelers.

Valedictorian of her class at Virginia State University, Dr. Gladys West invented the GPS or the Global Positioning System. She was inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame by the U.S. Air Force in 2018.

It is one of the Air Force’s highest honors.

West knew she needed an education to avoid becoming a farmhand like most of her family. She attended VSU, taught math for two years and returned to school to earn her Master’s degree.

West landed a job at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division during the mid-1950s. She was the second black woman ever to be employed there and collected data from satellites, a job that eventually led to the development of the GPS.

Using data created from the radio altimeter on the Geosat satellite, which went into orbit on March 12, 1984, West published a 60-page illustrated guide - “Data Processing System Specifications for the Geosat Satellite Radar Altimeter.”

She worked for Dahlgren for 42 years and retired in 1988.

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