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NASA's space shuttle, mission control to feature on 2025 US coins

February 15, 2024

— NASA's space shuttle program and the mission control that oversaw all of its flights will be honored as American innovations on two U.S. coins to be issued in 2025.

The United States Mint has revealed the themes and the first proposal designs for Florida and Texas' entries in the on-going American Innovation $1 coin program. Since 2019, the mint has been recognizing significant innovations or innovators on golden dollars, with one for each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. The series runs through 2032.

Both Florida and Texas chose spaceflight developments for their upcoming coins.

"For Florida, there is one concept and that is the space shuttle program," April Stafford, chief of the Mint's Office of Design Management, said during a meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) on Thursday (Feb. 15). "NASA's space shuttle fleet first launched in 1981 and completed 30 years of missions, each launched from the Kennedy Space Center [in Florida]."

"The space shuttle or Space Transportation System is the world's first reusable spacecraft. Prior to this, spacecraft were designed to be single mission only. The space shuttle orbiter held a much larger cargo load and could transport up to eight crew members, as compared to three in previous capsules," said Stafford.

Texas chose Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"Mission Control for human spaceflight began during Project Mercury when Dr. [Chris] Kraft developed a system of resource management and communication protocols to use when directing spaceflights, which he based primarily on existing aircraft flight operation procedures," said Stafford. "For the first time, NASA could comprehensively control missions from a single location to improve subsequent missions."

"Today, the [Christopher C. Kraft, Jr.] Mission Control Center manages flight control for NASA's human space program and coordinates with astronauts from the many countries that participate in the International Space Station program," she said.

Mint artists developed nine concepts for each state's coin. The Florida designs included renderings of the shuttle launching and landing at the Kennedy Space Center, as well as depictions of the winged spacecraft in Earth orbit.

Florida's governor Ron DeSantis did not identify a favorite among the nine designs, but a liaison from his office working with the mint conveyed a dislike for one that showed a nose-on view of the full shuttle stack set against Earth.

The CFA members agreed, while also ruling out several similar concepts.

"Florida's not in space," said James McCrery, an associate professor at the Catholic University of America's School of Architecture and Planning and founding principal of McCrery Architects. "I agree with the governor's office."

After considering all of the artists' ideas, the commission voted to recommend a depiction of the space shuttle launching from Florida from the perspective of someone on the ground. The CFA members particularly liked the use of the same font associated with NASA's logotype, also known as "the worm."

"A beloved font is a rare thing and so that's something to note," said Justin Moore, a transdisciplinary designer and urbanist who serves as the program officer for the Humanities in Place program at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Moore did, however, suggest a change to a field of stars that appears behind the shuttle, which he said "were a little odd" as depicted. He suggested that the scale and proportion of the stars could be better resolved.

The mint's designs for Texas included a few showing astronauts in space (which the CFA ruled out for the same reason they did when considering Florida's concepts), a few focusing on a single console from the Apollo-era Mission Control and two showing scenes in an operations control room. Texas Governor Greg Abbott did not identify a favorite.

None of the proposals appealed to the commission members.

"Houston, we have a problem," said Moore, evoking laughter from his fellow panel members.

At issue, of the two designs that depicted scenes inside Mission Control, one appeared to be just "a bunch of guys sitting around drinking coffee," while the other only included one flight controller.

"Are there any iconic photos of that moment of celebration in Mission Control when there is a touchdown or something like that, with people high-fiving or just some something capturing the excitement and the pride that is felt on the ground when something special is happening there?" asked Peter Cook, an architect based in Washington, D.C. where he is a design principal at HGA Architects & Engineers.

In response, the CFA members asked the mint to return with both revised and new designs for them to consider. The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) will also review the mint's designs and offer their own recommendations when they next meet later this month.

The Florida and Texas coins are the fourth and fifth in the American Innovation series to focus on space themes. The first, issued for Delaware in 2019, honored astronomer Annie Jump Cannon, who invented a system for classifying the stars that is still in use today. A year later, the mint released Maryland's coin, which celebrated the Hubble Space Telescope.

On April 8 of this year, the mint will release Alabama's coin honoring the Saturn V rocket that flew the first astronauts to the moon.

The American Innovation dollar coins are legal tender but are not released directly into circulation. Like the others, Florida and Texas' 2025 coins will be offered directly from the mint in rolls and bags and later in proof and reverse proof sets.


The Commission of Fine Arts recommended a design showing the space shuttle launching for Florida's 2025 American Innovation $1 coin but wanted a better scene inside Mission Control Houston for Texas' entry in the multi-year program. (U.S. Mint/collectSPACE)

The nine proposal designs for Florida's 2025 American Innovation $1 coin depict the space shuttle in flight. (U.S. Mint/collectSPACE)

Texas' 2025 American Innovation $1 coin will honor Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. (U.S. Mint/collectSPACE)

Other than Florida and Texas, Delaware (2019), Maryland (2020) and Alabama (2024) celebrated space-related developments on their American Innovation dollar coins. (U.S. Mint/collectSPACE)

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