Design unveiled for Christa McAuliffe commemorative coin

December 21, 2020

Officials with the U.S. Mint have unveiled the design for a commemorative $1 coin honoring the late Space Shuttle Challenger teacher/astronaut Christa McAuliffe of Concord.

The design for the coin was revealed Friday in a virtual ceremony hosted by U.S. Mint Director David J. Ryder.

The Christa McAuliffe Commemorative Coin Act of 2019 was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and introduced on Jan. 28, 2019, the 33rd anniversary of the Challenger tragedy. Shaheen began pursuing such legislation in 2016. This year, 81 of the 100 senators signed on as cosponsors.

President Donald Trump signed the Christa McAuliffe Commemorative Coin Act of 2019 in Oct. 2019. The bill passed the Senate and the House of Representatives with bipartisan support.

McAuliffe died in the Challenger disaster in 1986. The Challenger crew included McAuliffe, Dick Scobee, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Mike Smith and Ellison Onizuka.

The bill furthers the U.S. commitment to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, with proceeds from the coin supporting STEM education.

The obverse (heads) design is a portrait of Christa McAuliffe with a hopeful gaze. The reverse (tails) design depicts McAuliffe as a teacher, smiling as she points forward and upward, symbolizing the future. Three high school-age students look on with wonder. The seven stars pay tribute to those who perished in the Challenger tragedy, U.S. Mint officials said in a news release.

"This silver dollar will celebrate the life and legacy of a true pioneer, a passionate educator, and an inspiration to millions," said Ryder in a statement. "We hope this coin will honor Christa McAuliffe's memory, and we are proud to assist in the continued legacy of her mission to inspire young people to become science and technology leaders."

Shaheen and Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., both submitted video messages for the virtual unveiling ceremony.

"Christa McAuliffe will always have a special place in our hearts in New Hampshire. More than three decades since the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, her mission lives on in the generations of students she inspired to pursue STEM education and space exploration," said Shaheen. "This commemorative coin was a long time in the making and is a fitting tribute to her legacy."

"Christa McAuliffe will always be an inspiration to Granite Staters and Americans from all walks of life," said Hassan. "Christa was driven by a passion for teaching and scientific discovery, and this commemorative coin will help continue her legacy. I also greatly appreciate Dean Kamen's work on this effort and all that he does to advance Christa’s mission of engaging more young people in the STEM fields."

U.S. Reps. Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster both applauded the design reveal.

"Christa McAuliffe was a smart, charming and kind educator who left her mark on countless students by encouraging them to seek out the best in themselves and always reach a little higher," said Kuster. "This coin will honor Christa’s enduring legacy and benefit the FIRST program to engage and inspire young people to become leaders in STEM fields. Christa represented the best of New Hampshire and this coin will help to cement her place in American history for generations to come."

"Christa McAuliffe understood that ordinary people doing extraordinary things can change the world," said Pappas. "She dared to touch the future as a teacher and an astronaut and furthered our nation’s commitment to exploration inside and outside the classroom. There is no better way to honor Christa McAuliffe’s memory than to spark the imaginations of our young people and inspire the next generation of leaders, explorers, innovators, and dreamers."

The coins will be sold to the public at a price to be determined, but at a value high enough to cover their face value, a $10 surcharge per coin to benefit the FIRST Robotics program and the cost of their production such that no taxpayer funds are used.

The coins will be minted from 90% silver and 10% copper, officials have said.

Chosen as the first participant in NASA’s Teacher in Space program, McAuliffe launched as a member of the STS-51L crew aboard the Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986. The astronauts were lost when the space shuttle broke apart 73 seconds into the flight, the result of a faulty booster seal.

Three years later, Kamen founded FIRST to involve kids in kindergarten through high school in research and robotics programs.

More than one million children from the U.S. and 86 other countries now participate in a FIRST program each year, making it the leading nonprofit STEM engagement program for young people worldwide.

By:  Paul Feely
Source: Union Leader