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Last astronauts to visit Hubble Space Telescope sign coins for AMF fundraiser

The Astronauts Memorial Foundation is now selling coin sets signed by members of the last Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, STS-125 in 2009.
The Astronauts Memorial Foundation is now selling coin sets signed by members of the last Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, STS-125 in 2009. (Image credit: Astronauts Memorial Foundation/collectSPACE.com)

As the world's eyes turn to the deployment of a new space telescope, the Astronauts Memorial Foundation (AMF) is shining light on the last astronauts to visit one.

The foundation, which maintains the Space Mirror Memorial and operates the Center for Space Education, both at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, has revealed its latest fundraising effort, which combines history-making astronauts with U.S. Mint commemoratives.

Now available for sale through the foundation's website are six-coin collections celebrating the Hubble Space Telescope and the STS-125 crew who were the last to upgrade the orbiting observatory more than a decade ago. The offer includes the autographs of five of the seven STS-125 astronauts on individual inserts, each encapsulated with a 2020 American Innovation $1 coin featuring the Hubble.

Related: James Webb Space Telescope vs. Hubble: How will their images compare?

Unlike the James Webb Space Telescope, which was recently launched on a million-mile (1.6 million km) journey to the second Earth-Sun Lagrange Point (L2) — far too distant for astronauts to easily visit — the Hubble Space Telescope was designed to be serviced in Earth orbit. STS-125 in 2009 was the fifth and final space shuttle mission to rendezvous with the Hubble to repair and change out its instruments.

The Hubble Space Telescope remains in operation today, 13 years later, in large part due to the work completed by the STS-125 crew.

The U.S. Mint's American Innovation $1 coin program honors the innovations and innovators from the 50 U.S. states, five U.S. territories and District of Columbia. Maryland, home of the Space Telescope Science Institute, chose to celebrate the Hubble on its coin issued in 2020. The golden dollar is engraved with a depiction the observatory above Earth, surrounded by a field of stars.

The AMF coin sets include six of the Hubble-adorned dollars, including five paired with the signature of an STS-125 astronaut. Mission commander Scott Altman, pilot Gregory C. Johnson and mission specialists Michael Massimino, Michael Good and John Grunsfeld each autographed inserts that were then encapsulated with a coin in a sealed plastic case.

STS-125 mission specialists Megan McArthur and Drew Feustel remain active in NASA's astronaut corps and per federal law pertaining to government employees, could not take part in the fundraising effort.

Each individually encapsulated coin in the Astronaut Memorial Foundation's set includes an autograph of an STS-125 crew member or the launch director. (Image credit: Astronauts Memorial Foundation)

The sixth coin in the foundation's set includes the autograph of Michael Leinbach, the former space shuttle launch director who oversaw the liftoff of Atlantis on the STS-125 mission on May 11, 2009.

The six-coins sets, which also include an STS-125 mission patch presented in a floating frame, are available with either uncirculated coins struck at the U.S. Mint's Denver (D) or Philadelphia facilities. The AMF is asking $290 for each set.

In addition to selling through its website, the AMF will have a booth at the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) show being held from Thursday to Sunday (Jan. 6-9) at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Leinbach will in attendance at the show, along with AMF board members.

The STS-125 coin sets follow an earlier AMF offer for signed and encapsulated Apollo 11 50th anniversary commemoratives. Still available for sale, the U.S. Mint-issued 2019 gold and silver coins are autographed on inserts by either Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin or Apollo 13 lunar module pilot Fred Haise.

For both the Apollo and STS-125 sets, the AMF worked with the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) to certify the coins and autographs as genuine.

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Robert Z. Pearlman

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.