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Wednesday, December 30, 2015


OUR TWO CENTS WORTH--One of the weighty issues our government is mulling is whether or not to quit minting the venerable one cent coin.  Published staff reports from the U.S. Treasury reveal that it costs two cents to produce one new shiny penny.  One recent year America’s mints produced eight billion new pennies at a cost of $130 million.

Amazing, that’s akin to one year’s salary for staff of this blog.

Eliminating the penny has been good for laughs for comedians like Stephen Colbert and John Oliver.  Even NPR has entered the debate by assigning its top money correspondent Chris Arnold to pen a feature on the copper coin.  On a slow news day, NPR posted Arnold’s detailed probe of the topic (as only NPR can do—which is a good thing).

NPR noted that if the mints stopped making the penny it would be a glorious day for penny hoarders.  Thinking of those penny grubers is with no more pennies being produced their stash would automatically jump in value and also at the same time validate serious mental issues.

After studying the situation it comes down to this:  If the government feels the penny is no longer worth producing then why on this green earth do they mint eight billion of them?   Why not create a mere billion cents, which would cut costs and keep those hoarders busy and we would not lose part of our heritage. 

And, NPR did point out that most Americans don’t want the penny to go away.

Now, let’s go back to probing serious issues like Donald Trump’s hair or lack of it.

The Lincoln penny at the top of this blog posting functions as a camera calibration target attached to NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, which landed on Mars the night of Aug. 5 to Aug. 6, 2012.

The calibration target for the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) instrument also includes color references, a metric bar graphic, and a stair-step pattern for depth calibration. The MAHLI adjustable-focus, color camera at the end of Curiosity's robotic arm can be used for taking extreme close-ups of rocks and soil on Mars, as well as images from greater distances.

The penny is a nod to geologists' tradition of placing a coin or other object of known scale as a size reference in close-up photographs of rocks, and it gives the public a familiar object for perceiving size easily when it will be viewed by MAHLI on Mars.

The specific coin, provided by MAHLI's principal investigator, Ken Edgett, is a 1909 "VDB" penny. That was the first year Lincoln pennies were minted and the centennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth. The VDB refers to the initials of the coin's designer, Victor D. Brenner, which are on the reverse side. Brenner based the coin's low-relief portrait of Lincoln on a photograph taken Feb. 9, 1864, three day's before Lincoln's 55th birthday, by Anthony Berger in the Washington, D.C., studio of Mathew Brady.

This photograph of the penny on Curiosity was taken in August 2011 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center as the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft was being prepared for launch. The mission launched on Nov. 26, 2011. It will deliver the rover Curiosity to Gale Crater on Mars in August 2012. With MAHLI and nine other science instruments, Curiosity will investigate whether the area has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, supplied MAHLI and three other cameras for the mission. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory mission for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington, and built Curiosity.

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