Christa coin bill heads to President's desk

This is a conceptual image of the commemorative coin honoring the life of New Hampshire teacher/astronaut Christa McAuliffe.

WASHINGTON — The state’s two U.S. senators and their colleagues urged the U.S. House of Representatives to follow suit after the Senate Tuesday passed a bill to issue a commemorative $1 coin honoring the late Space Shuttle Challenger teacher/astronaut Christa McAuliffe of Concord.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., had 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 bill furthers the U.S. commitment to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, with proceeds from the coin supporting STEM education.

“Christa McAuliffe continues to serve as a role model and inspiration for Granite Staters and Americans across the country seeking to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and math,” Shaheen said. “By further strengthening support for STEM education, this bill honors Christa’s legacy as a passionate and dedicated advocate for her students and for science education. I am very pleased that the Senate passed this bipartisan legislation unanimously, and I urge the House of Representatives to pass this bill as soon as possible.”

Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said the honor is too long in coming.

“For years, I have encouraged and supported young peoples’ interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, and I am proud to cosponsor this legislation,” Enzi said.

The coins, if approved, 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.

“Our bipartisan bill will honor her legacy by using the funds from the Christa McAuliffe commemorative coin to support the FIRST Robotics program, which encourages young people to engage in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H. “I urge my colleagues in the House to pass this important bipartisan legislation without delay.”

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, New Hampshire inventor and entrepreneur Dean 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.