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NASA's Saturn V moon rocket to launch onto 2024 US dollar coin

The preferred candidate designs for Alabama's 2024 American Innovation $1 Coin honoring NASA's Saturn V rocket, as selected by the Commission of Fine Arts (design 10, focused on the F-1 engines) and by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (design 1, also one of two favored by Alabama's governor).
The preferred candidate designs for Alabama's 2024 American Innovation $1 Coin honoring NASA's Saturn V rocket, as selected by the Commission of Fine Arts (design 10, focused on the F-1 engines) and by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (design 1, also one of two favored by Alabama's governor). (Image credit: U.S. Mint/collectSPACE.com)

The historic rocket that launched the first astronauts to the moon will blast off from the back of a new dollar coin in 2024.

NASA's Saturn V booster will be featured (opens in new tab) on the U.S. Mint's American Innovation $1 Coin representing the state of Alabama. The Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) separately reviewed the candidate designs and made differing recommendations to the director of the mint.

The multi-year American Innovation $1 Coin program was authorized by Congress to honor innovation and innovators by issuing dollar coins for each of the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. Since 2019, the U.S. Mint has been releasing four new coins with distinctive tails-side designs in the order that the the states ratified the Constitution of the United States or were admitted to the Union.

The obverse, or heads-side, of each of the American Innovation coins depicts the same representation of the Statue of Liberty as is common to the entire series.

Alabama's coin celebrating the Saturn V will be the 22nd state entry in the series when released in 2024.

Related: NASA's 17 Apollo moon missions in pictures

One of only three remaining Saturn V rockets and the only vertical standing replica are on display in Huntsville, Alabama, near NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

One of only three remaining Saturn V moon rockets, and the only vertical standing replica, are on display in Huntsville, Alabama, near NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. (Image credit: U.S. Space & Rocket Center)

"The Saturn V rocket was designed and built at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama," the mint described in its presentations to the CFA and CCAC. "Initially developed to support the Apollo program for human exploration of the moon, a total of 13 Saturn V rockets were launched (opens in new tab) between 1967 and 1972 from the Kennedy Space Center with no loss of crew or payload."

"As of 2022, the Saturn V remains the tallest, heaviest, and most powerful (opens in new tab) (highest total impulse) rocket ever brought to operational status and remains the only launch vehicle to carry humans beyond low Earth orbit," the mint's statement read.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey proposed the moon rocket as the state's theme (opens in new tab) for the innovation coin series. In response, the mint's artists worked with liaisons and experts to develop 11 candidate designs, each focusing on the Saturn V, which stood as tall as a 36-story building and, at launch, generated more power than 85 Hoover Dams.

"The commission members recommended reverse no. 10 that depicts the base of the Saturn V rocket," Thomas Luebke, the CFA secretary, wrote in a June 24 letter to U.S. Mint director Ventris Gibson. "They cited the strong composition that conveys a sense of the rocket engine's tremendous power at liftoff."

The CFA's preferred design focuses on the F-1 rocket engines at the tail end of a Saturn V. The inscription "SATURN V," in a typeface inspired by NASA's "worm" logotype, is incused into the plume trailing the rocket's engines.

"They suggested showing the engine smoke as billowing along the edge of the composition for greater visual effect, as seen in alternatives no. 1 and no. 6, with adjustment to the vertical inscription 'United States of America' as needed," Luebke wrote.

The Apollo program: How NASA sent astronauts to the moon

The second of two preferred candidate designs for Alabama's 2024 American Innovation $1 Coin honoring NASA's Saturn V rocket, as selected by the state's governor.

The second of two preferred candidate designs for Alabama's 2024 American Innovation $1 Coin honoring NASA's Saturn V rocket. (Image credit: U.S. Mint/collectSPACE.com)

Design 1 depicts the power and force of the Saturn V lifting off, with the moon in the background. Design 6 features a Saturn V rocket set against a prominent image of the moon. The inscription "SATURN V" is in the plume coming from the five F-1 engines.

Design 1 was one of the two candidates that was preferred by Ivey. The second, Design 2, shows the first stage of a launching Saturn V separating from the rest of the vehicle with the moon in the distance. "SATURN V" appears next to the rocket.

The CCAC, which advises the Secretary of the Treasury on any theme or design proposals relating to U.S. coins or other medallions, agreed with the governor and recommended Design 1.

The CCAC did suggest, however, adding the "SATURN V" inscription in the same logotype font as included on other candidate designs.

With both the CFA and CCAC recommendations received, the final decision as to which design will be used by the U.S. Mint lies with the Secretary of the Treasury.

The eight candidate designs for Alabama's 2024 American Innovation $1 Coin honoring NASA's Saturn V rocket that were not chosen or preferred by the Commission of Fine Arts, Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee or the state's governor.

The eight candidate designs for Alabama's 2024 American Innovation $1 Coin honoring NASA's Saturn V rocket that were not chosen or preferred by the Commission of Fine Arts, Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee or the state's governor. (Image credit: U.S. Mint/collectSPACE.com)

Alabama's dollar coin is the third in the American Innovation series (opens in new tab) to feature a space or astronomy theme. The first, issued for Delaware in 2019, honored astronomer Annie Jump Cannon, who invented a system for classifying the stars that is still in use today. A year later, the Mint released Maryland's coin, which celebrated the Hubble Space Telescope (opens in new tab).

A fourth possible space design was put forth by New York with its inclusion of the Apollo Lunar Module (opens in new tab) among the suggested themes for its 2021 coin. The CFA and CCAC, however, passed on the moon lander and recommended art featuring the Erie Canal instead.

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Robert Z. Pearlman
collectSPACE.com Editor, Space.com Contributor

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.