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Hubble Space Telescope may come into focus on 2020 U.S. coin

January 2, 2020

— The United States Mint may issue a 2020 coin to highlight the vision that has gone into operating the Hubble Space Telescope for 30 years.

The golden dollar, if approved, will be part of the U.S. Mint's American Innovation $1 Coin Program. Introduced in 2018, the multi-year series honors innovation and innovators by issuing one dollar coins representing each of the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and the five U.S. territories.

The Hubble Space Telescope would represent the state of Maryland.

"Managed by teams at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute, both located in Maryland, the Hubble Space Telescope is one of the largest and most versatile space telescopes," April Stafford, director of the U.S. Mint's Office of Design Management, said at a recent meeting of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC).

The Hubble, named for American astronomer Edwin Hubble, was launched and released into Earth orbit by the space shuttle Discovery in April 1990. Three years later, the first of five servicing missions corrected a flaw in the telescope's primary mirror, allowing the start of three decades of astronomical discoveries.

"Data transmission — transmitted by Hubble — has helped refine estimates of the age of the universe, trace the growth of galaxies, identify planets beyond our solar system, study the planets within our solar system, identify black holes, observe the birth and death of stars, and many other scientific discoveries," explained Stafford.

The Hubble Space Telescope is one of two themes that the Governor's Office of Maryland submitted to the U.S. Mint for consideration. The state's other suggested innovation was the mapping of the human genome. The National Human Genome Research Institute is located in Bethesda, Maryland.

After reviewing 16 candidate designs that encompassed both themes, the CCAC recommended one of the six Hubble Telescope-focused concepts for Maryland's American Innovation $1 coin.

"I love the dichotomy within this portfolio. We have one set of designs that look microscopically inside us and then another that looks way outside and into the universe," said Dennis Tucker, a numismatic researcher who has served on the CCAC since 2016. "Of the two, I found myself kind of leaning towards the idea of looking out. I think people look in quite a bit."

"The significance of the Hubble Space Telescope is incredible. It cannot be overemphasized," he said, according to a transcript of the CCAC's Sept. 18, 2019 meeting.

The design favored by the committee depicts the Hubble Space Telescope orbiting Earth surrounded by a field of stars. The coin art features NASA's legacy logotype, affectionately dubbed the "worm," as adorns the real observatory, and the inscriptions on the coin, including "The Hubble Space Telescope" and "Maryland," are rendered in a similar font.

"This typography has never been used on a United States coin before," said Tucker. "It has the helpful legend ... in case someone does need some context. It tells them that this is the Hubble Space Telescope. And I also like the fact that NASA is called out, specifically."

Erik Jansen, who as life-long coin collector was appointed to the CCAC as the member representing the interests of the general public, favored the same design but saw a different focus for the coin.

"The Hubble Telescope is really not about a telescope. It's really about the stars. So I would hate to think that the stars would decimate in the sculpt," said Jansen, adding that the sculptors should be careful about making the stars a distraction.

The Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) also reviewed the designs and chose the same Hubble artwork as did the CCAC, as well as recommended one of the genome concepts. Both panels' comments and all of the candidate designs have now been turned over to the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, for his final selection.

If chosen, the Hubble Space Telescope Maryland design would be the second coin in the American Innovation $1 Coin Program to feature an astronomy theme. The first, issued for Delaware on Nov. 7, 2019, honored astronomer Annie Jump Cannon, who invented a system for classifying the stars that is still in use today.

The Maryland coin is expected to be the third American Innovation issue of 2020, after releases representing Connecticut (possible themes: Colt Armory, the Gerber Variable Scale and the USS Nautilus) and Massachusetts (the telephone and basketball). The fourth coin this year will be for South Carolina (Septima Clark and the maser).


The Hubble Space Telescope may feature on Maryland's American Innovation $1 coin being issued by the United States Mint in 2020. The design pictured above was favored by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the Commission of Fine Arts. (US Mint)

The six candidate designs for the Hubble Space Telescope theme of Maryland's American Innovation coin. The design recommended to the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury is at bottom right. (US Mint)

Delaware's 2019 American Innovation $1 coin honored astronomer Annie Jump Cannon and her star classification system. (US Mint)

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