The Eagles Are Landing in 2019
Editor Bill Gibbs summarized the legislation here.
This is a great achievement for the numismatic community, for our country, and for democracy itself as we will now finally honor one of the greatest accomplishments of the United States on commemorative coins.
It was made possible through a combination of the tireless efforts of several groups: countless coin collectors, who contacted their congressional representatives to express their support for the coins; former astronauts such as Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and others in the space community, who expressed their support for the legislation directly to the Congress; the Astronauts Memorial Foundation* and Astronauts Scholarship Foundation, whose members traveled to Washington, DC to meet with members of congress working on the bill; and especially the congressional members who sponsored the legislation, namely Rep. Bill Posey (R- FL) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D- FL), and many other members and their staffs, who all did amazing work to get the legislation passed. Thanks also goes to members of the numismatic media for writing about the program to help build support among collectors.
But the effort would never have gotten off the ground had it not been first proposed back in February 2014 by Michael Olson, former member of the CCAC and Iowa Banker, who while serving on that committee was the first person to propose the coin program. Mr. Olson said he was inspired to do so by watching the momentous event in 1969 on television when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on the moon, by the New Frontiers medal the U.S. Mint produced, and by the aborted mission of Apollo 13.
During the Feb. 11, 2014 CCAC meeting, Mr. Olson proposed a motion supporting the program that was seconded by CCAC chairperson Gary Marks. The motion was approved unanimously, and the committee including the recommendation in its Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Report.
In March 2015 CCAC chairman Gary Marks proposed the Apollo 11 coin program again, and the committee again recommended it. And Mr. Marks as well members Tom Uram and Erik Jansen were instrumental in garnering support for the program.
In addition, as I mentioned in previous articles, Mr. Olson has worked a great deal since he left the committee to support this effort, traveling numerous times to Washington, DC, for example, to meet with members of congress.
What happened after the House passed the legislation by unanimous consent on Dec. 5 was truly amazing. The bill required two-thirds of the Senate, or 66 members to co-sponsor it in order to hold a vote. But on Monday night, only 17 senators had signed on.
Over the course of the next two days the sponsors of the bill (Rep. Posey and Sen. Nelson) and other members pulled off a feat that has rarely been seen in the halls of Congress. They managed to get 52 additional senators to support the bill in that short period, bringing the total to 69. And Sen. Harry Reid also signed on, bringing the total to 70.
But they still needed a vote to actually take place before the 114th Congress ended on December 9, a day when the body was dealing with averting a government shutdown as well as finishing up other business. But they managed to do it despite all these obstacles.
As Mr. Olson told me, everyone involved “did incredible work” and as far as he has heard, “nothing like this” has happened in years.
*The Astronaut Memorial Foundation was founded by the Mercury 7 astronauts, who included Jon Glenn, who passed away just as the bill was about to come before the Senate. His passing may have played a role in garnering support for the legislation.