Every challenge coin that comes to AllAboutChallengeCoins tells a story through every part of its unique design. However, every now and then, we come across a project with a story that’s begging to be told. The eye-catching look and remarkable importance of the challenge coin we made commemorating NASA’S Ascent Abort-2 flight test was one of those stories we just needed to share.
All About the Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test
The completion of the Ascent Abort-2 flight test is a critical hurdle for NASA’s Artemis program and its plan to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024. According to Mark Kirasich, the Orion Program Manager, the test was no routine checkup either.
“Our Launch Abort System is a key safety feature of the spacecraft — it will protect the crew members who fly onboard Orion during the most challenging part of the mission, which is the ascent phase.”
To put it into perspective, the abort system needs to trigger within milliseconds of manual activation by the crew to their module away from the rocket during an emergency. Then, it needs to right itself before splashing into the ocean to deliver its passengers safely back to Earth. A sequence that needs to take place while a rocket is propelling at over 1,000 mph at an altitude that’s potential over 40,000 ft. The unmanned flight test is the first of its kind to be performed in over 50 years since the Apollo missions. With its success, the agency’s work on the Artemis missions is ready for its next step.
“The next big checkmark is the Moon — it’s our Artemis 1 mission,” said Kirasich. “A little over a year from now we’ll be sending Orion on a Space Launch System rocket, and the destination of that vehicle is the Moon.”
For our part? No one on the team is a rocket scientist, but recognizing the need to commemorate the occasion, we buckled down to produce a custom challenge coin to the significance of this benchmark.
A Classic Coin for the Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test
Between the Ascent Abort-2 mission logo and the iconic look of the Orion spacecraft itself, this challenge coin had a wealth of modern inspiration to draw on. However, with a vintage antiqued plating, the coin uses a classic look taking direct inspiration from some of the earliest operation medallions commemorating previous successful operations. To start, the main image of this challenge coin is based on the official logo representing the AA-2 flight test and the team of literal rocket scientists who’ve been working on this project for years.
Without color for this design, we used physical texture on the front and back of the coin by sandblasting the backdrop. By keeping the 3D molded details of the Orion spacecraft smooth, you get a natural eye-catching contrast between the craft and the textured backdrop. Speaking of the backdrop, the texturing gives off the visual look of a distant space with the addition of local constellations really giving the feel of a starry sky on the design.
If there’s anything that could disappoint us about this coin, it’s was the physical inability to properly integrate the Orion constellation as shown in the original draft. The initial concept had the constellation fully molded into the starry backdrop of the coin as a reference to the original Orion. However, It turned out that trying to create linework that fine on a molded design led to difficulties in the production process that had us ultimately scrap the idea. None the less, the final product has a refined and polished look that definitely carries the weight of history on it.
Level by Level Design
You might notice one of the most defining elements of this coin is the amount of detailed depth in each element of the design. From the start of the Ascent Abort-2 coin design, we outlined three layers of 3D detail to achieve that effect.
First, the starry background, moon, and congratulatory text set a foundation for the later elements of the coin and highlight how the coin is emblematic of this successful milestone for the Artemis Program. While we ultimately had to remove the Orion constellation on the backdrop from the finished product, finding a way to clearly depict the moon as the mission’s far-off goal was absolute and this level sets a backdrop for the rest of the design.
On the next layer, we included an atmospheric shot of our own planet Earth. Referencing NASA’s own operations from Florida, we gave the Sunshine State a very clear outline to as the shuttle’s launch point. Finally, the last layer of the design overlays the rest with Orion and it’s successful launch. More than just a meaningful emblem. The level by level design of the Ascent Abort-2 coin honors the team’s workplace and adds a clear visual depth capturing the gravitas of the event.
Telling a Story With Every Design
With a vintage look that recaptures the excitement of space exploration, the Ascent Abort-2 flight test coin takes its place as one of our favorite productions. While the Ascent Abort-2 flight test coins aren’t the first space industry coins we’ve worked on, making this contribution to the future of space travel is something we’re going to be proud of for a long time. It’s a sentiment we hope is shared with every member of the team who helped make the flight test a success.
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