Recognizing the important contributions they made to the history of the United States, the New Frontier Congressional Gold Medal was awarded earlier this week to four former NASA astronauts during a ceremony held in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. The Congressional Gold Medals were presented to John Herschel Glenn, Jr.; Neil A. Armstrong; Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr.; and Michael Collins at the ceremony held on Wednesday, November 16, 2011.
Bronze medal replicas of the awarded New Frontier Congressional Gold Medal are available from the United States Mint in both 3 inch and 1.5 inch sizes. The 3 inch bronze medal sells for $44.95 while the 1.5 inch bronze medal is offered for $7.95. Both may be purchased by calling the Mint at 1-800-USA-MINT (872-6468) or by going to the Mint’s website at http://catalog.usmint.gov.
The medals were authorized under the New Frontier Congressional Gold Medal Act (Public Law 111-44) to recognize the four men in association with the fortieth anniversary of the first human landing on the moon. That same law also authorized the production of replica bronze medals.
John Glenn, Jr. has the distinction of being the first American to orbit the earth, a feat which he accomplished on February 20, 1962. His actions aboard the Friendship 7 spacecraft paved the way for future space missions eventually leading to man’s first landing on the moon several years later.
That lunar landing occurred on July 21, 1969 and involved the other three astronauts who received the Congressional Gold Medal — Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Jr. and Michael Collins. Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 mission and has the honor of being the first human to step foot on the moon. He was followed by Aldrin as Collins supported their actions aboard the command module in orbit above.
"They will tell you that they are not heroes. Don’t listen to them," said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnel during the ceremony. "America is only as strong as the citizens we produce and here are four of the best."
"Gentlemen: heroes or not, yours were heroic acts," added Speaker of the House John Boehner. "Today we add to your many honors, with respect and gratitude, the Congressional Gold Medal."
Shown on the obverse of the medal are the portraits of the three Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins facing left. Joining them on the obverse is a portrait of Friendship 7’s John Glenn, facing right. The design also features a partial view of the Earth from orbit, as well as a horizon line with an astronaut walking on the lunar surface facing the planted flag of the United States.
The names of the four honored individuals — JOHN GLENN, NEIL ARMSTRONG, MICHAEL COLLINS and BUZZ ALDRIN — are inscribed along the outer rim. The obverse was designed by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program Master Designer Joel Iskowitz and sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill.
The reverse was also designed by Iskowitz but sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart. It shows the Lunar Excursion Module above the surface of the moon with the Friendship 7 mission capsule orbiting the Earth along with the inscription WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND.