The 50th anniversary of the first moon landing is still three years away, but the opportunity for the United States Treasury to issue coins commemorating the Apollo 11 mission's half-centennial is now fleeting.
A bipartisan group of five members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill in June 2015 to celebrate the moon landing's 50th anniversary in 2019 by having the U.S. Mint strike curved gold, silver and clad coins bearing the iconic image reflected in Buzz Aldrin's helmet visor, as was taken by Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969.
Proceeds from the the sale of the Apollo 11 coins would benefit the Astronaut Memorial Foundation and Astronaut Scholarship Foundation's science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs, as well as the Smithsonian's "Destination Moon" gallery opening at the National Air and Space Museum in 2020. [NASA's Historic Apollo 11 Moon Landing in Pictures]
The coins' sale would also offset the cost of their minting, such that they are produced at no cost to taxpayers.
In the year since the bill's introduction, the "Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act" has gained nearly 300 cosponsors — more than enough to pass if put up for a vote in the House. But on the Senate side, the situation is different.
The companion bill was introduced only three months ago and has just four cosponsors. With the Senate's scheduled recesses between now and December, there are only 43 days remaining for the act to be passed before the whole process would have to start over with the next Congress.
"Gaining 67 cosponsors inside the Senate needs to be the focus of the effort at this time," said banker Michael Olson, a former member of the committee chartered by Congress to advise on the themes and designs of all U.S. coins and medals. "I cannot stress this enough."
Congressional staffers are continuing to work to build the needed support, but the public can help now by contacting their elected officials and expressing their desire to see the coins issued, Olson told collectSPACE.com in an interview.
"Let them know about the key role that constituents in their state made or continue to make to the space program, the enthusiasm among the space and numismatic community regarding this particular set of coins and the fact that the bill in the House has surpassed the number of votes to be viable," advised Olson. [Numismatics refers to the study or collection of currency, especially coins.]
The Senate resumes work on Sept. 6. The calls or emails of support are needed by Sept. 15.
Adding to the urgency, explained Olson, is the competition that the Apollo 11 coins face. Congress can only authorize two commemorative coin programs per year.
"The two most significant competitors are coins to benefit the football and basketball halls of fame," explained Olson. "Both of these proposals have been around awhile and do have support in Congress, but neither has been passed in the House or the Senate."
"From what I've seen in the numismatic press and online over the last several months, support for the Apollo coins far outstrips those other two proposals by a longshot," he said. "[But] with that being said, circumstances can change rapidly in D.C., especially near the end of a congressional session, so space enthusiasts need to join the fight now to put our Apollo 11 coins over the top."
Olson, who was the first to suggest the Apollo coins while a member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee in 2014, said he could think of no other commemorative coin program that could be proposed for 2019 that was "more significant from a national perspective than Apollo 11."
"We have until the end of the year to get these bills passed and to the President's desk, and this needs to be an effort that is befitting the historic achievement that these coins will commemorate," he said. "When I think about what this country accomplished by putting men on the moon and the national pride involved in doing so, it drives me to do all I can to make these coins a reality."
See if your state’s senators are cosponsors and if not how to contact them in support of the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act at collectSPACE.