From earliest memory, the vastness of the heavens served as the object of speculation, imagination and ambition. Ever since rocket travel enabled people to penetrate the cosmos–or at least its veneer–space exploration fascinates people of all ages, Americans in particular. The United States Postal Service leads the way by recognizing various developments in aerospace discovery and advancement. From celebrating rocket scientist Robert Goddard, through the Apollo moon missions, shuttle flights and space stations, space stamps track our most ambitious undertakings.
Postal Passport to the Galaxy
Ardent collectors of space stamps may not be aware of the Postal Passport to the Galaxy issued by USPS in 2018. Released simultaneously with the space stamp honoring Sally Ride, the first woman in outer space, this folio is accompanied by nine stamps highlighting pivotal moments in cosmic travel. With pages upon which to affix the stamps, the Passport provides synoptic information about each event and the stamp’s defining features.
Included among the major happenings commemorated is the first space walk in 1965. Additionally, the first moon walk four years later is a major stamp that adorns the booklet, as is the project of landing an unmanned craft on Mars. Of recent vintage, the 2015 mission to view Pluto gets a place in the Passport along with a memory farther back: the Mercury program.
The Postal Passport to the Galaxy adds other media to its array of space stamps. Five colorfully embroidered mission patches accompany the folio. Again the Mercury flights, Sally Ride’s Challenger mission of 1983 and the lunar arrival of Apollo 11 are represented. Moreover, the probe sent to Jupiter in 1972 and the Skylab enterprise launched a year later likewise receive acknowledgement in elaborate stitching. These patches are suitable for sewing onto fabric or mounting onto displays.
Sally Ride, First Woman in Space
The centerpiece of the Postal Passport to the Galaxy are the newly-issued space stamps remembering the late Dr. Sally Ride. The first woman in outer space, she served as a mission specialist for two shuttle flights: the first in 1983, and the next the following year. Although she was slated to occupy a spot on third mission, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger soon after launch in 1986 caused that assignment to be canceled.
Dr. Ride was a physicist by training, earning bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Stanford University. Her training with NASA commenced soon after. Following service in the space agency’s administrative department, Sally Ride then taught physics at the University of California at San Diego. Simultaneously, she directed the California Space Institute. In 2001, she formed her own concern, Sally Ride Science, to stimulate interest in science and technology among young girls.
While writing five children’s books aimed at developing passion for science, Dr. Ride served on numerous boards and panels, including the space study board of the National Research Council as well as the National Collegiate Athletic Association Foundation. She passed away in 2012.
With the space stamps for Sally Ride as the first woman in outer space, the USPS created the Postal Passport to the Galaxy to honor that and other watershed moments in space travel history. Each event changed the nature of space exploration in a significant way. Whether a person is of note, or a vessel or even a mission itself, there is a space stamp to commemorate it. This Passport (alternately referred to as the Sally Ride Folio)is a convenient and effective way of remembering history.