Space Shuttle Dollar
Six months before the first Sacagawea dollar coins were issued by the U.S. Mint on January 27, 2000, 12 specially minted 22 k gold Sacagawea coins of entirely different type were issued. A dozen dollars were delivered into orbit by the Space Shuttle Columbia in commemoration of the flight of Eileen Collins, the first U.S. female astronaut who command a Space Shuttle during the STS-93 mission.
12 coins made 80 revolutions around the orbit for 4 days, 22 hours and 50 minutes. They were selected as the best of a series of 39 coins, the remaining 27 coins were destroyed.
Initially, the Mint planned to display these Space shuttle dollar gold coins in museums to facilitate the issue of the Sacagawea dollar and possibly the sale of similar versions to the public. However, the mintage of gold coins was not approved.
Therefore, in 2001, 12 Space Shuttle dollar coins were moved to the Fort Knox Bullion Depository, where they have been stored ever since.
An ordinary circulated Sacagawea dollar differs greatly from these gold 12 coins. The Sacagawea dollar is really a 3 layer clad construction – this being a pure copper layer between and affixed to the outer layers which are made of manganese brass.
An ordinary Sacagawea dollar features a three-quarter profile design of Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their historic expedition. She guided travelers from the Northern Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean and back between 1804 and 1806.