For the first time since 1991, Pluto and the solar system’s eight bigger planets are getting their own postage stamps – thanks to a U.S. Postal Service cosmopalooza that also spotlights Earth’s moon and “Star Trek.”
The Pluto stamp pays tribute to NASA’s New Horizons mission, and updates 1991’s speculative view of the dwarf planet. Back then, the legend on the 29-cent stamp read “Pluto – Not Yet Explored.” This time, the four-stamp sheet carries the label “Pluto – Explored!”
“The New Horizons project is proud to have such an important honor from the U.S. Postal Service,” New Horizons’ principal investigator, Alan Stern, said today in a NASA news release. “Since the early 1990s the old ‘Pluto Not Explored’ stamp served as a rallying cry for many who wanted to mount this historic mission of space exploration. Now that NASA’s New Horizons has accomplished that goal, it’s a wonderful feeling to see these new stamps join others commemorating first explorations of the planets.”
The stamps cleverly sidestep the questions about Pluto’s planetary status. One sheet shows off views of the eight largest planets, from Mercury to Neptune, as seen by NASA spacecraft. The stamps on Pluto’s stand-alone sheet include a rendering of the New Horizons probe and an iconic view of Pluto’s disk, including the bright heart-shaped area known as Tombaugh Regio.
“Views of Our Planets” and “Pluto – Explored!” will make their official debut as Forever stamps sometime between May 28 and June 4 at the World Stamp Show in New York.
The Postal Service will issue a separate set of circular Global Forever stamps showing the full moon. These stamps, which cost $1.20 each, can be used to mail a one-ounce letter to any country to which First-Class Mail International service is available.
There’ll also be a set of four Forever stamps commemorating the 50th anniversary of the TV premiere of “Star Trek.” Two of the stamps feature the Starship Enterprise, one shows the silhouette of a crew member in a transporter (let’s hope he’s not wearing a red shirt!), and another stamp features a hand giving the Vulcan salute.
In a way, the Vulcan sign could be considered a tribute to Leonard Nimoy, the actor who created the split-finger salute as well as the character of Mr. Spock. Nimoy passed away in February at the age of 83, after suffering from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
NASA’s associate administrator for space science, John Grunsfeld, hailed the postal tributes.
“From Mercury to Neptune, Pluto and Star Trek, it’s exciting to see that planetary science and space exploration are being celebrated in these new 2016 stamps,” he said. “On behalf of NASA scientists across the nation, we’re honored that the U.S. Postal Service has chosen to highlight NASA’s New Horizons and 50 years of planetary exploration with these iconic images.”
If you’re a stamp fan who’s not a space geek as well, never fear: The Postal Service said its 2016 stamps will feature other subjects, including portraits of 19th-century black activist Richard Allen, jazz/pop singer Sarah Vaughan and California educator Jaime Escalante; sets that celebrate floral paintings, pets, soda fountain treats and pickup trucks; and tributes to Indiana statehood, the Columbia River Gorge and Puerto Rico’s La Cueva del Indio caves.