The Space Foundation has given its stamp of approval to the United States Postal Service (USPS) and its 75 years of space-themed postage.
The nonprofit foundation, which was established in 1983 to support a global space ecosystem, is recognizing the U.S. mail carrier as the 2023 winner of the Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award. Named in honor of the late writer, producer and space advocate, the award is presented to individuals or organizations who have significantly contributed to the public awareness of space programs.
"For over 60 years, [the] USPS has celebrated achievements in space exploration, astronomy, space and Earth science, as well as those who pioneered many of these groundbreaking accomplishments," said Tom Zelibor, Space Foundation CEO, in a statement. "Through the color, creativity and character of space-inspired stamps, USPS has long been established as a storyteller through their visionary work, and its contributions should be celebrated."
The USPS (previously the Post Office Department until 1971) has celebrated the United States' achievements in space for more years than the Space Age has existed. Beginning with a 1948 3-cent stamp depicting a V2 missile launch from Fort Bliss in Texas, the postal service has issued more than 100 space stamps.
Some of the more popular topics over the years have included: the first American in orbit, the first moon landing, the space shuttle, planetary probes and, as of 2011, specific astronauts including Alan Shepard and Sally Ride. The most recent U.S. postage stamp with a spaceflight theme was released in September 2022 to recognize NASA's newest orbital observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope.
In addition to featuring NASA imagery, U.S. space-topical stamps have also served as canvases for some of the nation's top space artists, including Robert McCall, Paul Calle and his son Chris Calle, Ron Miller and James Vaughan.
"The Postal Service is honored to be chosen for this award in recognition of the many space-themed stamps we have released over the years," said William Gicker, Director of Stamp services for the U. S. Postal Service. "Stamps are part of the fabric of U.S. culture that celebrates the people, events and cultural milestones of American life, including the strides that Americans have made into space."
"Starting with rockets appearing on stamps in the 1940s through stamps featuring milestones in the space race in the 1960s to stamps honoring [the] space shuttle and NASA's exploration of the solar system, the postal service has found space-themed stamps to be an extremely popular subject," Gicker said.
The foundation will present the award to the USPS during the opening ceremonies for the organization's annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs on April 17.
Established in 1995, past Morrow honorees have included: the "Apollo 13" movie team (1996), LIFE Magazine (2004), NASA's social media team (2012) and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (2020). The most recent recipients, awarded together in 2022, were the commercial spaceflight companies Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and SpaceX for advancing the public's understanding and engagement with space.
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Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.