Journey to Planet Post Office

Dr. Alan Stern who led the New Horizons mission to Pluto recently visited his local Post Office

Dr. Alan Stern who led the New Horizons mission to Pluto recently visited his local Post Office

Pluto visionary visits home Post Office to purchase New Horizons commemorative stamps.

Dr. Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission to Pluto paid a visit to his home Post Office in Boulder, CO to purchase the new Pluto—Explored! and Views of Our Planets Stamps, issued in honor of his mission and interplanetary exploration.

“What an honor this was to the more than 2,500 people who worked on this project,” said Dr. Stern. “And for me, this is highly satisfying to see my home Post Office carry this stamp.”

Dr. Stern earned his doctorate in astrophysics and planetary science from the University of Colorado, Boulder.  Working with Boulder’s Southwest Research Institute, he has been the primary lead behind the Pluto Mission.

 

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Pluto Stamp Earns GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ Title

plutonotexplored

A 1991 Pluto: Not Yet Explored stamp traveled more than 3 billion miles on a spacecraft to the dwarf planet has earned the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS achievement for the farthest distance traveled by a postage stamp. The stamp also served as NASA’s rallying cry to set the record straight for exploring Pluto.

This record will extend another 1 billion miles, as NASA recently announced the New Horizons mission will journey beyond Pluto to visit a Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69 — considered to be one of the early building blocks of the solar system.

The U.S. Postal Service and NASA marked the achievement July 19 at a ceremony at Postal Service headquarters. Space fans are asked to share the news on social media using the hashtag #PlutoExplored!

“In 2006, NASA placed a 29-cent “Pluto: Not Yet Explored” stamp on board the New Horizons spacecraft on its way to Pluto and beyond,” said U.S. Postal Service Chief Marketing and Sales Officer and Executive Vice President Jim Cochrane. “That historic flyby with Pluto took place last summer — July 14, 2015, to be precise — after New Horizons travelled more than three billion miles in its nine and a half year journey.”

“Two months ago, at the World Stamp Show in New York City, we issued the “Pluto—Explored!” Forever Stamps that honor the milestone of the New Horizons’ flyby. I think employees at NASA and the Postal Service can take pride in what these accomplishments represent for our organizations and for our country — the talent, the dedication, the hard work, the technological achievement.”

GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS official adjudicator Jimmy Coggins presented the certificate to Cochrane. NASA Director of Planetary Science Jim Green and New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute provided the backstory on the stamp and the New Horizons mission.

“The farthest distance traveled by a postage stamp is a quite an impressive achievement, as it spans many planets and billions of miles. As stamps are synonymous with travel, it is fitting that one would travel within the solar system,” said Coggins. “It’s an honor to be a part of this historic moment and welcome the United States Postal Service to the Guinness World Records family.”

“The New Horizons mission to Pluto is not only writing space history, it’s setting a high bar for achievements beyond its many science discoveries,” said Green. “NASA joins the U.S. Postal Service in expressing our mutual appreciation for this special recognition.”

“The New Horizons project is truly honored to be recognized by Guinness World Records for its achievements,” said Stern. “Among my personal favorites are being the fastest spacecraft ever launched, the first mission to explore the Pluto system, the mission that explored the farthest worlds ever visited, and now sending a U.S. postage stamp farthest from Earth!”

Pluto-Explored!

Pluto

This stamp celebrates NASA’s history-making first reconnaissance of Pluto in 2015 by the New Horizons mission.

The Pluto–Explored! souvenir sheet contains two stamp designs. One shows an artist’s rendering of the New Horizons spacecraft. The other shows the spacecraft’s striking image of Pluto taken near closest approach. The view—which is color-enhanced to highlight surface texture and composition—is a composite of four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), combined with color data from the imaging instrument Ralph. It clearly reveals the now-famous heart-shaped feature that measures about 1,000 miles across at its widest point.

The Pluto flyby completes a historic, half-century era of solar system reconnaissance by the United States. After NASA probed every planet out to Neptune between 1962 and 1989, it took another quarter century to reach Pluto. The United States, through NASA, has been the first nation to explore each of the planets.

The New Horizons mission to Pluto and the vast region beyond Neptune called the Kuiper Belt is one of the great explorations of history.

The Pluto-Explored! stamp set is now available for purchase at usps.com/stamps, at 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724) and at Post Offices nationwide.

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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