Former National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut, Richard "Rick" Hieb, completes the award-winning Southern Sky coin series with the domed coin, Orion.
Hieb struck the final coin to the three-coined series during the National Science Week celebration at the Royal Australian Mint on Monday.
The Orion coin joins the first two coins in the series, the Crux and Pavo coins. It is fashioned after the Orion constellation that is comprised of the largest and the brightest stars visible in the night sky.
Hieb describes the Orion coin as reflective of the sense of beauty and wonder of space. He said that the coin should serve as an inspiration for people to appreciate the possibilities that space programmes bring to humanity such as the deep space exploration mission being promoted by NASA, also named Orion, that lays the groundwork to send people to Mars in the years after 2017.
Even with Hieb’s outstanding achievements, he said that the striking of the coin at the Royal Australian Mint was his first time. He is the current vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Antarctic Support Operations. He broke a 20-year record for the longest extra-vehicular activity (spacewalk) during his career as an astronaut. He had been in space for three times (1991, 1992 and 1994).
"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," he said.
"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," Royal Australian Mint CEO Ross MacDiarmid said.
The Southern Sky coin series was crafted in stunning fine silver and coloured printed to emulate their presence in the celestial sphere. The coins were fashioned with the coordinates of the three constellations seen in the night sky.