It’s been a long time coming, but the US Postal Service has released its designs for its 2016 stamps and one set rightfully features the biggest space story of 2015* — NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto.
In 2006, when the spacecraft was being prepped for its near-decade long odyssey to the outer solar system, principal investigator Alan Stern made sure a 1991-minted Pluto stamp was attached to the body of the spacecraft. That stamp, which included the type “Pluto — Not yet explored”, had become a planetary exploration “call to arms”, according to an Astronomy Magazine interview.
Indeed, Pluto was the final “classical” planet of the solar system to be explored, but on July 14, 2015, that changed dramatically when New Horizons blasted through the Pluto system, revealing the dwarf planet in all it’s astonishing glory. Suddenly, the “planetary debate” was forgotten and Pluto and it’s incredible system of moons wowed the world. Pluto has become the most fascinating, mysterious and awe-inspiring world, proving that the frozen outermost reaches of the solar system is a surprisingly dynamic place.
And with this revolutionary moment for planetary science comes a USPS stamp to commemorate the NASA mission.
“The New Horizons project is proud to have such an important honor from the U.S. Postal Service,” said Stern in a USPS news release. “Since the early 1990s the old, ‘Pluto Not Yet 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 include an artist’s impression of the spacecraft and the now iconic composite observation of Pluto at close approach captured by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) with data from the Ralph imaging instrument.
But that’s not all, another set of stamps featuring all the planets of the solar system will also be released alongside a collection commemmorating the sci-fi phenomenon “Star Trek.”
*The New Horizons flyby of Pluto was voted the number one space story of 2015 in a Discovery News readers’ poll.