Two U.S. stamps celebrate ‘Apollo 11’ moon mission on its 50th anniversary
By Michael Baadke
On July 16, 1969, the United States sent three brave men into the void of space to realize President John F. Kennedy’s dream of Americans walking on the surface of the moon.
On July 19, 2019, two U.S. stamps will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the successful completion of the most famous space achievement of all time.
The two nondenominated (55¢) Moon Landing Anniversary forever stamps will be issued in a pane of 24 with a first-day ceremony in Florida near the site where Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins began their historic journey half a century ago.
The Friday morning first-day ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Space Commerce Way, in Merritt Island, Fla.
The U.S. Postal Service originally offered a limited number of free ceremony tickets online, but as of June 27, the USPS website said those tickets had all been distributed.
“The event will also be open to all paid guests at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex. General Admission tickets are $57 per adult,” according to the USPS.
The ceremony will take place at the Apollo/Saturn V Center, which can be reached only by a space center shuttle bus.
The announced ceremony participants are Russell L. (Rusty) Schweickart, Apollo 9 astronaut and research scientist; Col. Robert D. Caban, director of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center; and Steven W. Monteith, USPS vice president of marketing. Thomas J. Marshall, USPS executive vice president, will serve as dedicating official.
USPS art director Antonio Alcala designed the two forever stamps using two stock photographs.
The first is a NASA image snapped by mission commander Armstrong of lunar module pilot Aldrin while both men were standing on the moon. Armstrong took the picture using a 70mm lunar surface camera.
In the reflective gold coating of the visor of Aldrin’s helmet, it is possible to see Aldrin’s long shadow, as well as Armstrong standing near the lunar landing module Eagle. Aldrin’s name as “E. ALDRIN” reads up on a tag below his visor.
As the two astronauts walked on the moon, command module pilot Collins remained in lunar orbit.
The image on the second stamp shows the moon with a white dot indicating the location of the landing site in the moon’s Sea of Tranquility.
The moon photograph was taken in 2010 by Gregory H. Revera from his home in Madison, Ala.
The location dot color was originally shown as yellow on preliminary artwork released in March. The change to white was “a design decision that was made late in the process,” USPS spokesman Roy Betts told Linn’s Stamp News.
A second change from the Postal Service’s March press release is that the selvage for the pane of 24 stamps does not, as originally announced, include an image of the lunar module.
The stamps include text in white dropout lettering: “1969/First Moon Landing/Forever/USA.” The year date 2019 appears in smaller type in the upper left corner.
The phrase “First Moon Landing” implies the first manned moon landing. An unmanned craft from the Soviet Union landed on the moon in 1959, and the U.S. Ranger 4 unmanned craft arrived in 1962.
To date, only American astronauts have landed and walked on the moon’s surface.
In promotional material released in advance of the issue date, the USPS said: “On the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing on July 20, 1969, the Postal Service is pleased to issue two stamps commemorating that milestone in history.”
Many Americans link the successful Apollo 11 mission to words spoken by President Kennedy before a special joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961,
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” Kennedy said.
As the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum has noted, “At that point, the total time spent in space by an American was barely 15 minutes.”
That American was astronaut Alan Shepard, who had piloted the Freedom 7 spacecraft in the Mercury-Redstone 3 mission less than three weeks before Kennedy addressed Congress.
Five more manned Mercury flights followed, and 10 Gemini flights each carrying two astronauts were launched during 1965 and 1966. Armstrong was command pilot for Gemini VIII, Collins was pilot for Gemini X, and Aldrin was pilot for Gemini XII.
The three men were announced as the Apollo 11 primary crew on Jan. 9, 1969.
According to NASA history: “Between May 18 and 26, 1969, Apollo 10 astronauts Thomas P. Stafford, Eugene A. Cernan, and John W. Young successfully carried out a dress rehearsal for the Moon landing mission. On June 3, they met with the Apollo 11 crew of Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, and Michael Collins to describe their mission to them and pass along all the lessons they learned. As Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins intensified their training for the historic mission, NASA was preparing to support the mission as well as the return of the crew from the Moon.”
A little more than 100 hours after the July 16 liftoff, Armstrong and Aldrin, in the lunar landing module Eagle, undocked from the command module Columbia and descended to the moon’s surface.
Nine and a half hours later, Armstrong stepped onto the moon’s surface on July 21, 1969, at 2:56 a.m. UTC (Coordinated Universal Time, or Greenwich Mean Time). In the Eastern time zone of the United States, it was 10:56 p.m. on July 20.
NASA describes the event: “With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbs down the ladder and proclaims: ‘That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.’ ”
Aldrin stepped onto the lunar surface 19 minutes later.
As Joe Brockert describes in his feature article in the July 15 Linn’s, multiple U.S. stamps already have been issued to commemorate the 1969 moon landing.
The first was the horizontal 10¢ airmail stamp issued Sept. 9, 1969, with the inscription, “FIRST MAN ON THE MOON” (Scott C76). Paul Calle’s design was modeled by Robert J. Jones and engraved by Edward R. Felver (vignette) and Albert Saavedra (lettering).
Although questions arose about a U.S. stamp that obviously depicted a living person (something technically prohibited then and now), the fact that the subject matter deserved postal commemoration seemed irrefutable.
The stamp picturing Aldrin from the new set is the most obvious commemoration of a living astronaut on a stamp. All three Apollo 11 crew members were born in 1930. Aldrin and Collins are both living, but on Aug. 25, 2012, Armstrong died at age 82 of complications from cardiovascular procedures.
Two pictorial first-day cancels, one in black and the other in color, are being offered for the Moon Landing Anniversary forever stamps. The black cancel shows a sketch of part of the moon’s surface. The color cancel depicts the entire lunar sphere.
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