Less than a year following NASA’s nine-year, three-billion plus mile New Horizons mission to explore Pluto, the U.S. Postal Service dedicated Forever stamps to commemorate the historic event, while dedicating a second set of stamps depicting NASA’s stunning images of our planets.
The first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the Pluto—Explored! and Views of Our Planets Forever stamps took place before a crowd of 500 at the world’s largest stamp show that only occurs in the United States once a decade, World Stamp Show-NY 2016. The show runs through Saturday. The public is asked to share the news on social media using the hashtags #PlutoExplored and #PlanetStamps. Visit this link (online solutions to create link) to view images of the stamps and background on the planets.
“In 1991, the Postal Service issued a Pluto: Not Yet Explored stamp that served as a rallying cry for those who very much wanted to explore it,” said U.S. Postal Service Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President David Williams in dedicating the stamps. “At the time, Pluto was still considered a planet, and it was the only one in our solar system that hadn’t been visited by a spacecraft.”
Pluto is now officially designated as a dwarf planet. The Postal Service is issuing the Pluto—Explored! Souvenir sheet as a companion to the Views of Our Planets stamp pane.
Pluto Explored. (from left): New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO; New Horizons’ Deputy Project Scientist Leslie Young, SwRI; Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Director Ralph Semmel; Annette Tombaugh, daughter of Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930; and New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy, Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona hold a print of the 1991 Pluto stamp — with their suggested update — on July 14, 2015, at APL in Laurel, MD. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
“In 2006,” Williams continued. “NASA placed a 29-cent Pluto: Not Yet Explored stamp on board the New Horizons spacecraft, which is safe to say, makes it the most widely-traveled stamp in the universe.”
The New Horizons spacecraft, launched into space on the fastest rocket ever built, traveled 3.26 billion miles at a speed exceeding 34,000 m.p.h. to reach Pluto on July 14, 2015. Placing that in perspective, it took three days for Apollo 11 to reach the moon. New Horizons passed the moon in nine hours.
The Postal Service learned of the 29-cent stamp’s journey aboard New Horizons on the eve of last July’s flyover and quickly put plans into place to set the record straight as noted in NASA’s celebratory photo.
“Now, the Views of Our Planets and Pluto—Explored! stamps will begin their own journeys today — on letters and packages to millions of homes and businesses throughout America,” added Williams. “We trust they’ll find a home in your own collections too.”
Joining Williams in the dedication were NASA Chief Scientist Dr. Ellen Stofan; NASA Director of Planetary Science Dr. Jim Green; Oceanographer, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, Norman Kuring, who created the Earth stamp image; and, New Horizons Principal Investigator, Southwest Research Institute, Dr. Alan Stern. Honored guests included Astronaut Dr. John Grunsfeld, a veteran of five space shuttle flights who logged 58 days in space, including more than 58 hours of spacewalk time, and Alice Bowman, New Horizons first female Mission Operations Manager.
“These breathtaking new images of Pluto and our planets make for an exciting day for NASA and for all who love space exploration,” said Green. “With the 2015 Pluto flyby, we’ve completed the initial reconnaissance of the solar system, and we’re grateful to the U.S. Postal Service for commemorating this historic achievement.”
“The 1991 stamp that showed Pluto ‘not yet explored’ highlighted some important, unfinished business for NASA’s first exploration of the planets of our solar system,” said Dr. Alan Stern, principal investigator for the New Horizons mission. “I’m thrilled that 25 years later, these new stamps recognize that Pluto has indeed been explored by the New Horizons spacecraft and revealed to be a complex and fascinating world.”
Forever stamps will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce price. Art director Antonio Alcalá of Alexandria, VA, designed the stamps.