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Proposed Christa McAuliffe coin reaching final stages 

  • This undated file photo provided by NASA shows New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe. McAuliffe was aboard Space Shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986, when the vehicle exploded shortly after liftoff at the Kennedy Space Center. All seven members of the crew on board perished.

Concord Monitor
Published: 8/9/2020 9:07:57 PM
Modified: 8/9/2020 9:19:30 PM

CONCORD — Christa McAuliffe is gazing up and smiling. Three students look with her, their eyes following the direction of her finger pointing to the stars. Engraved above their heads is McAuliffe’s motto: “I touch the future. I teach.”

That image is the favored design for the reverse (tails) side of the Christa McAuliffe Silver Dollar Commemorative Coin, which is scheduled to be released next year to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

That 1986 tragedy took the life of six astronauts and McAuliffe, the Concord High teacher who was selected out of 11,000 applicants to be on board the Challenger as the first teacher in space.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., introduced and helped pass legislation to create the coin in October 2019. Artists from the U.S. Mint then created multiple designs for the coin that were reviewed by the McAuliffe family, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.

All three groups favored the same designs for the reverse/tails side and the obverse/heads side, which is a profile portrait of McAuliffe based on a photograph that was taken on Sept. 12, 1985, while McAuliffe was being briefed on the flight suit and personal hygiene equipment she would use onboard the Challenger.

The recommendations from the family, the CCAC and the Commission of Fine Arts have all been sent to the U.S. Treasury Department, which will make the final decisions regarding the coin’s design.

McAuliffe’s inclusion on the Challenger flight was intended to inspire a generation of students to study science.

The commemorative coin legislation mandates that the reverse side depicts her legacy as a teacher.

“I think teachers will very much appreciate the reverse design,” U.S. District CourtJudge Steven McAuliffe, Christa’s widower, told collectspace.com for a June 23 story. “Christa always stressed in her role that she was a representative of teachers. She always understood and stressed for everybody, and appreciated for herself, that she wasn’t singled out for her own personal accomplishments and attributes. She was singled out and chosen to be a representative of classroom teachers, and that is the role in which she reveled.

“So the reverse, depicting her in that teaching role, is significant and very important to us and would be very important to her. The reverse captures what teachers actually do, it shows the relationship with students involved in active teaching.”

Proceeds from the coin will go toward FIRST Robotics, a nonprofit organization encouraging kids to get involved in science, technology, education and math, or STEM, and was founded by Manchester-based Dean Kaman.

“This is the first coin I believe in the history of the United States that recognizes a teacher,” Kaman told collectspace.com.

The favored design also shows seven stars, which represent the seven people who lost their lives aboard the Challenger — McAuliffe, Dick Scobee, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Mike Smith and Ellison Onizuka.

The Challenger disaster happened on Jan. 28, 1986, above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Fla., as millions of Americans watched on live TV.

A faulty O-ring, a design problem that was flagged before the disaster, caused an engine failure that resulted in the Challenger breaking up just 73 seconds after it launched.

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