WASHINGTON — Bipartisan legislation to issue a commemorative $1 coin honoring the late Space Shuttle Challenger teacher/astronaut Christa McAuliffe of Concord passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, and is headed to President Donald Trump’s desk to be signed into law.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., has been pursuing this legislation since 2016. This year, 81 of the 100 senators signed on as cosponsors.

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.

“For more than 30 years, Granite State students have grown up learning about the life and legacy of Christa McAuliffe,” said Shaheen in a statement. “Now, with this commemorative coin we can help share that tribute far and wide, while also investing in the cause that was closest to her heart: education. I urge the President to sign this legislation into law as soon as possible.”

“Christa McAuliffe dedicated her life to furthering STEM education, and this coin bill will honor her mission of inspiring the next generation,” said Sen. Mike Enzi, R-WY, in a statement. “I look forward to seeing McAuliffe’s memory live on through the students who will benefit from the proceeds of this bill. I’m hopeful it will be signed into law soon.”

“Christa McAuliffe embodied what it means to pursue your passions and make a difference,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, in a statement. “The proceeds from this commemorative coin will support STEM education and help develop STEM leaders, something Christa worked to do every day in her classroom at Concord High School and what she hoped to do as the first teacher in space.”

All surcharges collected by the Treasury will be donated to FIRST Robotics, the Manchester based nonprofit founded by Dean Kamen, which helps students become leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“Christa McAuliffe was a dedicated high school social studies teacher who understood how history is defined by ordinary people doing extraordinary things. She dared to touch the future as a teacher and an astronaut,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-NH in a statement. “The creation of this commemorative coin is one way we can honor her -- and all our educators -- for opening doors of opportunity and challenging students to succeed.”

“Christa McAuliffe touched the lives of so many in New Hampshire and she continues to inspire students nationwide,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster, D-NH, in a statement. “This coin will forever be a powerful testament to her enduring legacy, and it will further cement her place in American history for generations to come.”

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.

“I could not be more excited about all of the bi-partisan support that led to the passage of this Bill. As part of the FIRST Community, we are inspired to advocate for wider recognition of our nation’s STEM heroes and leaders,” said Kamen in a statement.

“This commemorative coin will honor Christa McAuliffe’s legacy not just by celebrating her life and service, but by designating additional funds to a program with a proven track record of inspiring young people to pursue science and technology. I am extremely grateful to everyone who helped pass this legislation and am excited that FIRST students will benefit as a result.”

Monday, December 09, 2019