Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet nearly 10 years ago, but the tiny celestial body is just now receiving a consolation prize: its very own set of postage stamps. Yesterday, NASA debuted its new “Pluto—Explored!” Forever stamps, The New York Times reports. The two-stamp collection honors the historic New Horizons mission, and features a color-enhanced composite fly-by shot of the rocky planet and an artist’s rendering of the expedition’s spacecraft.
“The unveiling of these breathtaking new images of Pluto and our planets will be an exciting day for NASA and for all who love space exploration," Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement. “With the 2015 Pluto flyby, we’ve completed the initial reconnaissance of the solar system, and we’re grateful to the U.S. Postal Service for commemorating this historic achievement.”
Along with the special Pluto stamps, NASA also announced a stamp collection called “Views of our Planets.” It includes eight stamps depicting our solar system’s major planets—Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Earth. Also introduced this year was a Global Forever stamp dedicated to Earth’s moon. (Keeping with the space theme, the postal service is releasing four Star Trek-themed stamps in honor of the franchise’s upcoming 50th anniversary this summer.)
According to Smithsonian, this isn’t the first time Pluto has graced a U.S. postage stamp. In 1991, the U.S. Postal Service released a series of 29-cent stamps featuring images of all the major planets (including the not-yet-demoted Pluto) and the moon. Each stamp included an image of the first spacecraft to explore them, except for Pluto. The stamp was instead emblazoned with the phrase “Pluto: Not Yet Explored.”
When the New Horizons craft launched in 2006, NASA scientists made sure the Pluto: Not Yet Explored stamp was on board. “For many years, people had waved that stamp around as sort of a call to arms—as a motivating graphic—‘Not yet explored,'” New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern told Astronomy Magazine. “That stamp had been in so many presentations by that point, I knew it would please people to have it go along.” As the New Horizons probe approached Pluto last July, Stern and his colleagues held up a poster of the Pluto stamp, with the words “Not” and “Yet” crossed out.
NASA’s new space stamps were dedicated last week at the World Stamp Show-NY, and went on sale yesterday in post offices and online. You’ll be able to buy the planet stamps in person, but the two Pluto stamps are sadly only available for digital purchase, or by calling 800-782-6724. Check them out below.
All images courtesy of NASA.