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Thursday, November 25, 2010

US Postal Service reveals designs for 2011 space stamps

Alan Shepard will be depicted on a 2011 U.S. postage stamp wearing the silver spacesuit in which he made history as the first American astronaut to fly into space.

The stamp's design, which was quietly released last week by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), shows Shepard from his shoulders up centered between images of his rocket lifting off and his capsule above the Earth.

Opposite the astronaut's portrait on an adjoining stamp, an artist's rendering shows NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft orbiting the planet Mercury.

The pair - or "se-tenant" - of space-themed stamps was revealed in the USPS's annual report for 2010, which was posted to the postal service's website Nov. 15. The two stamps are displayed with other commemoratives planned for next year as a lead in to the report's financial section.

As first announced by the USPS in August, the stamps - titled "Alan Shepard: First American in Space" and "First Spacecraft to Orbit Mercury" - were designed by science fiction artist Donato Giancola, who worked with former Air & Space magazine art director Phil Jordan.

Timed to coincide with MESSENGER becoming the first spacecraft to enter orbit about Mercury on March 18, 2011 and the 50th anniversary of Shepard's Mercury-Redstone 3 flight on May 5, the stamps are the first space-themed releases by the USPS in more than a decade.

In addition, the Shepard stamp will mark the first time the U.S. has honored an astronaut with his own postage.