An article by Herman Viola in the Winter 2018 issue of American Indian profiles NASA engineer Mary Golda Ross and discusses the 2019 $1 coin honoring
Ross designed by the Mint's Artistic Infusion Program artist Emily Damstra. Here's an excerpt. I added an image of the coin design. -Editor
The earth-bound achievements of Mary Ross will be the centerpiece in early 2019 of a new coin honoring American Indians in the Space Program. Each
year since 2009, the United States Mint has produced and issued a $1 coin that celebrates significant contributions Indian tribes and persons have made to the
history and development of the United States. Ross will represent both her own work and that of several other prominent Indians, such as astronaut John
Herrington (Chickasaw) and flight controller Jerry C. Elliott High Eagle (Osage/Cherokee). Herrington manned the International Space Station in 2002. Elliott
plotted the re-entry of the troubled Apollo 13 mission and received a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role in saving the astronauts.
The Ross proposal, like many of the Native American $1 coins, started as a narrative provided by and design concepts developed in consultation with the
National Museum of the American Indian. The Native American $1 Coin Act requires consultation with the Committee on Indian Affairs of the Senate, the
Congressional Native American Caucus of the House of Representatives, and the National Congress of American Indians. Once the design concepts are defined, the
Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) discusses them during its public meetings.
Emily Damstra, an American freelance science illustrator living in Guelph, Ont., was selected to create the design for the 2019 coin.
She explains, “I first learned about Mary Golda Ross upon receiving the assignment to design this coin celebrating the contributions of American Indians to
the United States space program. Her achievements deeply impressed me, and I was excited for the opportunity to tell her story through numismatic art. From the
beginning of my design process, before I had anything else worked out, I knew that my design would include a figure of her.” Damstra’s only regret is that she
could not fit in a feather into her design.
A figure representing American Indian astronauts is included, she says, because, “I knew Ross was not the only American Indian who contributed to the space
program. Though we don’t see his face, the astronaut in my design is outfitted as John Herrington would have been for extravehicular activity. I liked the idea
of including an astronaut in space because such a feat was ultimately made possible by the work of people like Mary Golda Ross.
“I came up with the general design elements pretty quickly,” she admits, “but the details and configuration went through several iterations before being
finalized. For example, I originally drew Ross using a Friden calculating machine, but it looked too much like a typewriter so I replaced it with paper, a
pencil and a slide rule. Ross undoubtedly employed these tools while working on the Agena rocket program at Lockheed Martin. The small tools may not be obvious
at coin size, but their purpose is evident in the large equation inscribed across the Atlas-Agena rocket exhaust behind Ross. I’m very grateful to NASA for
providing that equation.”
To read the complete article, see:
Mary Golda Ross: She Reached for the Stars
Honoring the contributions of Native Americans to the U.S.
Space Program (https://emilydamstra.com/news/honoring-contributions-native-americans-u-s-space-program/)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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