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Christa McAuliffe silver dollar to be sold to the public in 2021 

  • U.S. District Court Judge Steven McAuliffe, husband of the late Christa McAuliffe, spoke at the unveiling ceremony of the new Christa McAuliffe coin at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord on Dec. 18. Courtesy

  • U.S. District Court Judge Steven McAuliffe, husband of the late Christa McAuliffe, spoke at the unveiling ceremony of the new Christa McAuliffe coin at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord on Dec. 18. —Courtesy

  • An illustration of the coin design front and back.

  • The design for the Christa McAuliffe silver dollar, created by Laurie J. Musser and sculpted by Phebe Hemphill.  U.S. Mint—Courtesy photo

  • The design for the Christa McAuliffe silver dollar, created by Emily Damstra and sculpted by Joseph Menna. U.S. Mint—Courtesy photo

Monitor staff
Published: 12/31/2020 3:12:16 PM
Modified: 12/31/2020 3:12:04 PM

The memory of Christa McAuliffe, the former Concord educator and astronaut, has been engraved in the minds of Concord residents for years, but this year it will be engraved in silver.

Up to 350,000 legal tender silver dollars will be manufactured at the U.S. Mint facilities in Philadelphia and released in 2021, although the exact date for when the coins will be available for sale has not been announced.

The silver dollars, which by law must be made of at least 90% silver, will be sold with a $10 surcharge that will go to support the FIRST organization that supports science, technology and engineering programs for students.

The final design for the McAuliffe Silver Dollar was unveiled in December during a virtual ceremony at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord by FIRST founder Dean Kamen and U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe.

At the unveiling ceremony, Steven McAuliffe said the designs honoring his former wife were “gorgeous.”

“I would be remiss if I did not make the point that she always made, which is that it’s not about her...it was about her in a representative capacity as a teacher,” Steven McAuliffe said. “If you are a teacher, or if you were a teacher, or are going to be a teacher, this coin is for you. This coin represents you and it represents the incredible work you do for our country, and the incredible work you do for children.”

It was Kamen’s idea to push for the creation of a commemorative coin for the Concord High School social studies teacher who was selected out of 11,000 applicants to be part of a NASA program as the first teacher in space. Kamen worked with the New Hampshire congressional delegation to get the legislation passed in Washington. 

“We thought that if we created a coin that could be the national recognition of a teacher, of a woman that went into space, it would be the perfect way to demonstrate that we could inspire an entire generation of kids to appreciate science and technology,” Kamen said.

On the front “heads” side of the coin is a portrait of McAuliffe, inscribed with her name, the year and the U.S. motto “in God we trust.” The image is based on a photograph that was taken on Sept. 12, 1985, while McAuliffe was being briefed on the flight suit and personal equipment she would use onboard the Challenger. The design was created by Mint designer Laurie J. Musser and was sculpted by Mint artist Phebe Hemphill. 

The reverse “tails” side of the coin shows McAuliffe beside three students, pointing upward and smiling. Seven stars around her hand represent the seven astronauts who died in the Challenger disaster. Also on the coin are McAuliffe’s words, “I touch the future. I teach” and the FIRST logo. The reverse image was designed by Mint designer Emily Damstra, and sculpted by Chief Engraver Joseph Menna.

The Challenger disaster happened on Jan. 28, 1986, 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. The shuttle program was shut down for 32 months after the disaster and investigated by the Rogers Commission, which declared NASA’s culture and decision-making processes to be key contributing factors to the accident.

“The Christa McAuliffe coin will celebrate the life and legacy of a true pioneer, a passionate educator and an inspiration to millions,” said Mint Director David Ryder. “We hope this coin will honor Christa’s memory, and are proud to assist in her continued legacy to encourage young people to become science and technology leaders.”

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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