Journey to the Almost Ninth Planet

Pluto

In January 2006, the New Horizons spacecraft lifted off from Earth for a more than 9-year journey to the distant former planet known as Pluto. On July 14, 2015, the tiny craft made its closest approach to the furthest space object ever to be explored. While the stellar accomplishment will be remembered for many generations, some are looking to promote the feat through a specific collectible.

The Postal Service released a special stamp collection in 1991 that depicted the 9 planets within the solar system. While 8 of the planets had been explored by that point, Pluto had yet to be visited by spacecraft. The stamp depicting the smallest planet in the solar system reflected that fact with the words “not yet explored” printed underneath an image of Pluto.

Since the release of the stamp series, the Pluto stamp has served as a challenge to inspire the exploration of the last planet in the solar system. In 2006, the path to rendering the words on the Pluto stamp obsolete began with the launch of the New Horizons spacecraft aboard an Atlas V rocket. As a future reminder of the accomplishment, a 29 cent Pluto postage stamp is attached to the spacecraft.

Later during the year of New Horizons launch, Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union. While some questioned the new classification, the exploration of Pluto remained a highly sought after accomplishment by space enthusiasts.

On Tuesday this week, the “tiny craft that could” reached its closest point of 7,800 miles away from the dwarf planet. Images from the highly anticipated arrival didn’t reach Earth until the following day, however, due to the three billion mile distance digital transmissions had to travel before reaching the craft’s point of origin. Now that the craft has accomplished its survey of Pluto, interest has bloomed in creating a new image of the 29 cent stamp depicting the dwarf planet’s explored status.

Following its exploration of Pluto, the New Horizons craft will seek out other interesting objects in what’s known as the Kuiper Belt, a collection of small debris, dwarf planets, and other objects beyond Neptune within the solar system.

Do you think the Postal Service should issue a new stamp to commemorate the exploration of Pluto?

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5 Comments

  1. grannybunny

     /  July 16, 2015

    I definitely think USPS should issue a new stamp commemorating the exploration of Pluto, including — as the prior series did — a picture of the exploring vehicle. It is my understanding that the prior stamp’s notation of “not yet explored” served as a rallying cry for those who pushed for the ultimate, successful, mission, and this intimate connection should be honored. Rarely is a single stamp issuance so influential.

  2. Anonymous

     /  July 17, 2015

    YES INDEED! People still believe Pluto is a planet!! It sure looks like one to me!!

    • grannybunny

       /  July 17, 2015

      Yes, they discovered that its diameter is actually 50 miles larger than previously thought. Query: at what point does a “dwarf planet” graduate back up into being simply a “planet” again?

  3. Jonn

     /  July 17, 2015

    I think this is a super exciting event, and pretty cool they have the postal stamp on the body of the probe. Pluto explored!

  4. Anonymous

     /  July 18, 2015

    ABSOLUTELY !!!

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