The U.S. Postal Service has previewed the New Year’s series of stamps highlighting NASA’s Planetary Science program, including a do-over of a famous Pluto stamp commemorating the NASA New Horizons’ historic 2015 flyby. The Postal Service on Wednesday released a preview of its new 2016 stamps, which include an image of Pluto and the New Horizons spacecraft, eight new colorful Forever stamps of NASA images of solar system planets, a Global Forever stamp dedicated to Earth’s moon as well as another postal treat for space fans: a tribute to 50 years of Star Trek.
“U.S. Postal stamps express the enthusiasm and personality of senders to favorite themes in our society. 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,” said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for science in Washington. “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.”
The Pluto stamps are of special significance to NASA and the New Horizons team, which placed a 29-cent 1991 “Pluto: Not Yet Explored” stamp on board the spacecraft. On July 14, New Horizons carried the tiny postage stamp on its history-making journey to Pluto and beyond, as members of the mission team celebrated with a large print, striking the words “not yet.”
“The New Horizons project is proud to have such an important honor from the U.S. Postal Service,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “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 souvenir sheet of four stamps contains two new stamps appearing twice. The first stamp shows an artist’s rendering of NASA’s New Horizons Pluto flyby spacecraft and the second shows the spacecraft’s enhanced color image of Pluto taken by New Horizons near its closest approach to Pluto.
The view — which is color enhanced to highlight surface texture and composition — is a composite of images from New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), combined with color data from the imaging instrument Ralph that clearly reveals the now-famous heart-shaped feature stretched across Pluto’s surface; this feature has been named Tombaugh Regio in honor of Pluto’s discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh. Antonio Alcalá of Alexandria, Virginia was the art director for these stamp designs.
“Our stamps articulate the American experience through miniature works of art,” said Acting Stamp Services Director Mary-Anne Penner. “Our diverse stamp topics for 2016 are sure to appeal to everyone, and with the New Year just around the corner, now is a perfect time to get started in stamp collecting. It’s an educational hobby the entire family can enjoy.”
The “Pluto Explored!” stamps will be dedicated in late May of 2016 at the World Stamp Show in New York.