9 Iconic NASA Stamps Issued by the U.S. Postal Service

9 Iconic NASA Stamps Issued by the U.S. Postal Service

From Moon landings to the Space Shuttle, stamps have depicted the best that the U.S. space program has to offer.

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The U.S. Postal Service just released this unique JWST stamp.
The U.S. Postal Service just released this unique JWST stamp.
Illustration: USPS

The U.S. Postal Service just released a majestic, glittery, and fabulous new stamp to commemorate the Webb Telescope, the most powerful space-based observatory ever built. The new addition is a reminder of the many striking stamps that have celebrated U.S. achievements in space over the past seven decades.

The new stamp, issued on Thursday, features an artist’s illustration of the James Webb Space Telescope soaring against a backdrop of illuminated stars, the Milky Way Galaxy, and the Earth and Moon.

“I am excited to add this beautiful stamp to our collection, as we watch from the ground as humanity’s newest and most capable telescope unlocks the greatest secrets of our cosmos that have been waiting to be revealed since the beginning of time,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement.

Throughout history, the major achievements of spaceflight have often been marked by small adhesive pieces of paper. Depictions of iconic NASA missions have adorned U.S. postage stamps over the years, honoring the space agency’s many achievements and innovations.

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First man on the Moon

First man on the Moon

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Illustration: USPS

The Apollo 11 mission landed the first humans on the Moon more than 50 years ago, and NASA’s upcoming Artemis 3 mission aims to land the first woman on the lunar surface no earlier than 2025.

At the time, the first boot marks on the lunar surface were commemorated by a special-edition stamp issued in September 1969 and titled,First Man on the Moon.” The stamp featured an illustration of NASA Astronaut Neil Armstrong taking his first steps on the Moon and kickstarting an entirely new era of space exploration.

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First Moon landing forever

First Moon landing forever

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Illustration: USPS

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) released two stamps in July 2019 to look back upon the Apollo 11 mission.

One stamp featured Armstrong’s famous photograph of Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin in his spacesuit on the surface of the Moon, while the other stamp marked the exact spot on the Moon where the Eagle lunar module famously landed.

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The era of heliophysics

The era of heliophysics

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Illustration: NASA/SDO/USPS

For more than a decade, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has kept a close watch on our host star and captured hundreds of millions of images of the Sun in different wavelengths of light.

In 2021, USPS issued a collection of 10 stamps that featured dazzling images of the Sun throughout its different temperamental phases in visible, ultraviolet, and extreme ultraviolet light. “I feel that the natural world around us is as beautiful as art, and it’s inspiring to be able to share the import and excitement of studying the Sun with people around the country,” Zurbuchen said in a statement at the time.

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NASA’s planetary messenger

NASA’s planetary messenger

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Illustration: USPS

In 2011, USPS issued a pair of stamps to honor NASA’s Mercury program and the planet Mercury itself. On one stamp, astronaut Alan Shepard is shown against a backdrop of the Mercury capsule that helped him become the first U.S. citizen to reach space, which he did in 1961. The second stamp features NASA’s Messenger spacecraft, the first to enter Mercury’s orbit, a feat accomplished in March 2011.

“These stamps, which will go out by the millions across this country, are a testament to the thousands of NASA men and women who shared dreams of human spaceflight and enlarging our knowledge of the universe,” Charlie Bolden, NASA administrator and former astronaut, said during the stamps’ unveiling at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

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The many worlds of our solar system

The many worlds of our solar system

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Illustration: USPS

Over the years, NASA has sent several missions to explore the different worlds of our solar system. In 2016, USPS released a set of stamps that featured the wonderful views captured by those missions, namely Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

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Don’t forget Pluto

Don’t forget Pluto

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Illustration: USPS

By the time the “Views of our Planets” stamp collection was released, Pluto had already been chopped off the list of solar system planets. But that didn’t imply that the dwarf planet wasn’t deserving of its own stamp.

Shortly after NASA’s New Horizons mission zipped past Pluto and its moons in 2015, USPS issued a special set of stamps for the dwarf planet. In 1991, USPS had issued a “Pluto: Not Yet Explored” stamp as a rallying cry to send a spacecraft to explore the object. At that time, Pluto was still considered a planet but it hadn’t yet been visited by a spacecraft. When the 2016 stamp was issued, Pluto had been explored by a spacecraft, but was no longer considered a planet.

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Honoring the Space Shuttle era

Honoring the Space Shuttle era

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Illustration: USPS

In April 1981, NASA initiated its famous Space Shuttle era, which would go on to carry a 30-year legacy. USPS issued a series of stamps to commemorate NASA’s famous fleet, including this one issued in 1999.

NASA’s space shuttle fleet, consisting of Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, flew a total of 135 missions. “The spacecraft has carried people into orbit repeatedly, launched, recovered and repaired satellites, conducted cutting-edge research and built the largest structure in space, the International Space Station,” NASA wrote.

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Exploring Jupiter

Exploring Jupiter

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Illustration: USPS

On February 28, 1975, USPS issued a stamp to commemorate Pioneer 11, the second mission to investigate Jupiter and the outer solar system. It was also the first mission to explore Saturn and its main rings by using Jupiter’s gravitational field to alter its trajectory.

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A decade in space

A decade in space

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Illustration: USPS

A decade after the U.S. established itself in the global space race, landed the first human on the Moon, and continued its exploration of the cosmos, USPS issued 8-cent stamps to commemorate those historical space achievements.

The stamp shows the lunar rover with two astronauts on board, with the Apollo lunar module in the background. NASA has its eyes set on the Moon once again, but this time with the intention of establishing a sustainable presence of humans in the lunar environment. As the world awaits the launch of the Artemis 1 mission, the next era of space exploration is sure to inspire new collections of commemorative postal stamps.

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