October 9, 2014 – On 18 August 2014, former National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut, Mr Richard (Rick) Hieb, launched the final spectacular domed coin, “Orion”, from the award-winning “Southern Sky” series at the Royal Australian Mint, to celebrate National Science Week.
Following the popularity of the “Crux” and “Pavo” coins, the final “Southern Sky” coin features one of the most widely recognised star constellations visible in both hemispheres. The Orion constellation includes some of the largest and brightest stars in the night sky.
Rick Hieb launching the new “Orion” coin.
Currently a Vice President with Lockheed Martin’s Antarctic Support Operations, Mr Hieb had a stellar career as an astronaut. Breaking a 20 year record for the longest extra-vehicular activity (spacewalk) during a career that included three space flights (1991, 1992, and 1994), Mr Heib flew on the original flight of the space shuttle “Endeavour” and was a member of the first three person spacewalk.
Royal Australian Mint CEO Mr Ross MacDiarmid said to mark all of these significant ‘threes’, Mr Hieb struck three of the limited edition “Orion” constellation coins during his visit.
“It is fantastic to have the final coin in the innovative “Southern Sky” series which celebrates the most prominent constellation, launched by someone with first-hand experience in space. Rick Hieb will be the first astronaut to set foot in the Mint for a ceremonial striking such as this,” said Mr MacDiarmid.
The latest deep space exploration mission being advanced by NASA, also named Orion, is laying the groundwork to send people to Mars in the years after 2017.
Australia/ 5 AUD/ 1 oz Silver/ 39.62 mm/ Mintage: 10,000.
Rick Hieb said that the “Orion” coin captures the sense of beauty and wonder of space and should inspire people to think about opportunities that space programmes provide to engineer a better tomorrow for all mankind.
“Sending people to Mars is a grand endeavour that will drive innovators to create all sorts of new technologies, and the coincidence that this coin and the deep-space mission are both named Orion in honour of that prominent constellation, is not lost on me,” said Mr Hieb.
“I have accumulated some significant firsts throughout my career, but this is the first time I have ever been able to strike a coin myself. I am truly thankful to the Royal Australian Mint for being provided with that opportunity.”
The domed effect which makes this coin exceptional.
Now that the coins have been struck, Lockheed Martin and the Mint have resolved to approach NASA to see if one may be included in the payload of an Orion capsule undertaking a deep space mission in the future.
The “Crux” coin, which was a sell-out success for the Mint, was presented with an ‘Australian Engineering Excellence Award’ in 2013 and the International 2014 Coin of the Year Award. “Pavo” was named ‘Most Beautiful Coin’ at the 2014 Mint Directors Conference in Mexico earlier this year.
All three domed coins have been crafted in stunning fine silver and coloured printed to emulate their presence in the celestial sphere. Aside from the distinctive domed effect, the coins themselves also feature the coordinates of the three constellations in the night sky.
The Mint is creating 10 000 of the “Southern Sky – Orion” coins, bringing the domed coin series to a conclusion.
The coins are currently available from the Mint’s eShop.
Go to this CoinsWeekly article to see the celebrated “Crux” coin.
Or click here to access fantastic images of the Orion Nebula, which is part of the Orion constellation.