FILE - Former NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, the inspiration for the film "Hidden Figures," poses in the press room at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 26, 2017.
FILE - Former NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, the inspiration for the film "Hidden Figures," poses in the press room at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 26, 2017.

NEW YORK - NASA renamed the street block in front of its Washington D.C. headquarters "Hidden Figures Way" on Wednesday in honor of black women who have contributed to the U.S. space program.

The work of three black mathematicians - Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson - at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration during the 1960s race to the moon was captured in the Oscar-nominated film "Hidden Figures."

"When little girls and little boys come to see NASA, they're going to look up and see that sign," said Senator Ted Cruz, who cosponsored a bill to rename the block, at a ceremony where officials unveiled the new street signs.

"This sign is a powerful testament that anyone who is telling a little girl or a little boy 'You can't do something,' is not telling the truth."

Less than 11% of the 500-plus people who have traveled to space have been women, said NASA.

July 20 marks the 50th anniversary of the first moonwalk by NASA astronauts, one of 11 flights in the Apollo space program of the 1960s and 70s, named after the Greek sun god.

NASA announced in May that it plans to land Americans back on the moon by 2024 with the Artemis initiative, named after Apollo's twin sister who was goddess of the hunt and the moon.

For the first time, a female astronaut will walk on the surface of the moon, NASA said.

Margot Lee Shetterly, author of the book "Hidden Figures" on which the 2016 film was based, encouraged those attending the ceremony to think beyond Neil Armstrong's moonwalk to the collective effort it took to achieve the Apollo 11 mission.

"'Hidden Figures' is about taking off our blinders and recognizing the contributions of the unseen individuals who were there at the beginning of the story," she said. "And whose persistence and whose courage delivered us to where we are today."