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US Postal Service begins orders for Webb Space Telescope stamp

The public can now pre-order the U.S. Postal Service's new James Webb Space Telescope stamp to be released on Sept. 8.
The public can now pre-order the U.S. Postal Service's new James Webb Space Telescope stamp to be released on Sept. 8. (Image credit: USPS)

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is giving the public a month to get ready for the release of its James Webb Space Telescope stamp (opens in new tab).

The Forever-denomination stamp, which features an artist's depiction of the next-generation astronomical observatory, is now available for pre-order (opens in new tab) through the USPS website. The public can also sign up to attend a first-day-of-issue ceremony scheduled for Sept. 8 in Washington, D.C.

"With this stamp, the U.S. Postal Service celebrates the James Webb Space Telescope," officials wrote on the USPS website (opens in new tab). "The largest and most sensitive telescope ever deployed in space, [it is] capable of peering directly into the early cosmos and to the limits of the known universe."

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Named after the former NASA administrator who championed the importance of science during the Apollo moon landings, the Webb Space Telescope orbits the sun about a million miles away (1.5 million km) from Earth. Its first science images revealed some of the earliest galaxies ever seen (opens in new tab), as well as the presence of the water in an exoplanet's atmosphere.

"Webb will provide views of the universe in its infancy, including galaxies during their formation. The telescope may identify planets with conditions advantageous for supporting life as we know it," the USPS website reads.

The new James Webb Space Telescope postage stamp will come in sheets of 20 with a selvage image of a star and distant space that was captured by the observatory early in its mission, confirming the perfect alignment of the telescope's 18 gold-coated mirror segments.

The new James Webb Space Telescope postage stamp will come in sheets of 20 with a selvage image of a star and distant space that was captured by the observatory early in its mission, confirming the perfect alignment of the telescope's 18 gold-coated mirror segments. (Image credit: USPS/collectSPACE.com)

As a Forever stamp, the James Webb Space Telescope commemorative will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce (28 grams) price. On its first day of issue, the stamp will sell for 60 cents, or $12 per sheet of 20.

The image on the stamp is based on artist James Vaughan's digitally created depiction (opens in new tab) of Webb set against a starscape. The selvage image — the border surrounding the stamps on a sheet — is of a star and distant space that was captured by the telescope early in its mission, confirming the perfect alignment of the telescope's 18 gold-coated mirror segments.

In addition to taking orders for the stamp, the USPS is also now offering two different envelopes stamped and postmarked for the first day of issue. Referred to as "first day covers" by philatelists, the two collectibles include either the official first-day-of-issue ink postmark or a digital color postmark.

Both cancellations feature the stamp's name and the details of its issuance, as well as a hexagonal pattern representing Webb's 21-foot-wide (6.4 meters) primary mirror (opens in new tab). The digital color postmark fills the design with the "colors of the cosmos."

The James Webb Space Telescope first day cover retails for $1.15 each. The digital color postmark lists for $2.00 each.

First day of issue and digital color postmark covers are now for pre-sale for the release of the Webb Space Telescope stamp.

First day of issue and digital color postmark covers are now available for pre-sale for the release of the James Webb Space Telescope stamp. (Image credit: USPS)

Additional philatelic products and collectibles featuring the James Webb Space Telescope are expected when the stamp is released.

The Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. will host the official first day of issue ceremony for the James Webb Space Telescope stamp. Anton Hajjar, vice chairman of the USPS Board of Governors, will preside over the event, which will begin at 11:00 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) on Sept. 8.

The ceremony is free and open to the public. Those planning to attend are invited to register their intent (opens in new tab) through the USPS website.

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Robert Z. Pearlman
collectSPACE.com Editor, Space.com Contributor

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.