Melba Roy Mouton

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Melba Roy Mouton
Melba Roy in 1960
Born(1929-04-28)April 28, 1929
DiedJune 25, 1990(1990-06-25) (aged 61)
Alma materHoward University
AwardsApollo Achievement Award, NASA Exceptional Performance Award
Scientific career
InstitutionsUnited States Census Bureau, Army Map Service, Goddard Space Flight Center

Melba Roy Mouton (April 28, 1929 – June 25, 1990) was an American mathematician who served as Assistant Chief of Research Programs at NASA's Trajectory and Geodynamics Division in the 1960s[1] and headed a group of NASA mathematicians called "computers".[2] She served as Head Mathematician for Echo Satellites 1 and 2 before becoming Head Computer Programmer and then Program Production Section Chief at Goddard Space Flight Center.

Early life and education[edit]

Melba Louise Chloe was born in 1929,[3] in Fairfax, Virginia to Rhodie and Edna Chloe (née Robinson).[4][5] She graduated from Howard University in 1950 with a master's degree in mathematics,[6] after receiving a bachelor's degree in mathematics with a minor in physics.[7] While at Howard, Mouton was president of the Kelly Miller Chapter of Future Teachers of America and a member of the NAACP, the Mathematics Club, and the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. She also was on the Dean's Honor Roll for four years, and was selected for the 1949-1950 Who’s Who among Students in American Universities and Colleges.[7]


Melba Roy - Female Computer at NASA 1964

She started working for NASA in 1959, after working for the Army Map Service and the Census Bureau.[6] The following year, Echo 1 was put into orbit, and Mouton led a team of NASA mathematicians (known as "computers") in tracking its orbit.[2] While at Goddard, Mouton was an instructor for a series of seminars on A Programming Language held at Watson Research Labs.[8] In a NASA symposium, she published a paper about the importance of investing in thorough, descriptive program documentation for projects which are to be maintainable over time.[9] She was also prominently featured alongside some of her African American colleagues in an advertisement in the Afro American designed to spotlight NASA's diversity.[10] Mouton received both an Apollo Achievement Award and an Exceptional Performance Award from NASA before she retired in 1973.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Mouton had three children and was married twice, first to Wardell Roy and later to Webster Mouton. She died in Silver Spring, Maryland, on June 25, 1990, of a brain tumor at the age of 61.[11][12]


In May 2022, lunar mountain Mons Mouton (previously known informally as Leibnitz Beta of the Leibnitz plateau) at the lunar south polar region was named officially in her honor.[13] It is scheduled to become the landing site of the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER).[14]

Proposed landing site of Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER


  1. ^ "The Goddard General Orbit Determination System" (PDF). NASA. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
  2. ^ a b "Human Computer". NASA. Archived from the original on 2013-10-30. Retrieved 2013-10-22.
  3. ^ "Melba Roy Mouton" (PDF). Chandra X-Ray Observatory. NASA. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  4. ^ "Melba Louise (Chloe) Mouton Roy 1929–1990".
  5. ^ "1940 United States Federal Census for Melva Chloe, Virginia, Prince William, Manassas". Retrieved 2023-06-25.
  6. ^ a b "Who We Are – Black Women in Computing". Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  7. ^ a b Nelsen, R. Arvid (January 2017). "Race and Computing: The Problem of Sources, the Potential of Prosopography, and the Lesson of Ebony Magazine". IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. 39 (1): 29–51. doi:10.1109/mahc.2016.11. ISSN 1058-6180. S2CID 6992544.
  9. ^ "Automated Methods of Computer Program Documentation" (PDF). NASA. November 1970. Retrieved 2016-11-01. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. ^ "NASA Yes! We are Involved: A Diversified Team can get the Job Done". Afro American. 1972-04-15. Retrieved 2016-11-01.
  11. ^ a b "Melba Roy Mouton". The Washington Post. June 29, 1990.
  12. ^ "Reference to obituary".
  13. ^ SVS, NASA's (2023-05-30). "SVS: Mons Mouton, a Newly Named Lunar Mountain". SVS. Retrieved 2023-09-24.
  14. ^ Wright, Ernie; Ladd, David; Colaprete, Anthony; Ladd, David (2021-09-20). "NASA Scientific Visualization Studio". SVS. Retrieved 2023-10-27.