2016 47c Pluto
Scientists had long dreamed of exploring Pluto. It was the issuing of a postage stamp that served as a rallying point to launch a mission to the most distant planet in our solar system.
The Voyager mission did its final flyby of Neptune in 1989. Two years later, the USPS issued a set of stamps featuring each of the planets with the spacecraft that explored it. But one stamp stood out. Picturing a lone planet, it proclaimed, “Pluto: Not Yet Explored.” The statement was taken as a challenge.
NASA created the New Horizons mission with plans to explore Pluto, its moons, and objects beyond them. The mission launched in January 2006, the same year Pluto was declared a dwarf planet. With the stamp that inspired the mission aboard, New Horizons reached Pluto on July 14, 2015. The same day, the probe began transmitting back the first batch of data, including the first up-close images we have ever seen of Pluto.
In the following months, New Horizons revealed that Pluto has been changing for much of its existence, contrary to what scientists have long believed. The images showed curious cone-shaped mountains with craters in the center and unexplained volcanic activity.
New Horizon’s next goal is to discover more of the Kuiper Belt. But Pluto’s exploration has already made the mission a resounding success.
Issued: May 31, 2016
First Day City: New York, NY
Type of Stamp: First Class Mail
Printed by: Ashton Potter
Quantity Printed: 15,000,000
This striking image of Pluto was taken from the New Horizons' spacecraft near its closest approach. It shows a 1,000-mile-across heart-shaped feature called Tombaugh Regio. The stamp was designed by art director Antonio Alcala.