A 1991 “Pluto: Not Yet Explored” stamp (U.S. Scott #2577) has completed a nearly five-billion-kilometre trip to the dwarf planet Pluto.
In doing so, it became the Guinness World Record holder for the farthest distance traveled by a postage stamp. The event also served as NASA’s rallying cry for further exploration of Pluto, although it didn’t stop there.
The record will soon extend another 1.2 billion kilometres after NASA announced the New Horizons mission will journey beyond Pluto to visit a Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69—considered to be one of the early building blocks of the solar system.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and NASA marked the achievement on July 19, during a ceremony at USPS headquarters.
“In 2006, NASA placed a 29-cent ‘Pluto: Not Yet Explored’ stamp on board the New Horizons spacecraft on its way to Pluto and beyond,” said USPS Chief Marketing and Sales Officer and Executive Vice President Jim Cochrane. “That historic flyby with Pluto took place last summer – July 14, 2015, to be precise – after New Horizons travelled more than three billion miles in its nine and a half year journey.”
Earlier in June, during the World Stamp Show in New York City, the USPS issued four “Pluto–Explored!” Forever Stamps honouring the milestone of the New Horizons’ flyby.
“I think employees at NASA and the Postal Service can take pride in what these accomplishments represent for our organizations and for our country—the talent, the dedication, the hard work, the technological achievement,” added Cochrane.
Guinness World Records official adjudicator Jimmy Coggins presented the certificate to Cochrane. NASA Director of Planetary Science Jim Green and New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute provided the backstory on the stamp and the New Horizons mission.
“The farthest distance travelled by a postage stamp is a quite an impressive achievement as it spans many planets and billions of miles. As stamps are synonymous with travel, it is fitting that one would travel within the solar system,” said Coggins. “It’s an honour to be a part of this historic moment and welcome the United States Postal Service to the Guinness World Records family.”
10 YEARS, 4.8 BILLION KILOMETRES
In 1991, the USPS issued the Space Exploration stamps that depicted all of the planets and NASA spacecraft used to explore them. Pluto’s exploration was still more than 20 years away.
The stamp’s designation was not missed by the New Horizons mission team, which placed the stamp on the New Horizons spacecraft. Launched Jan. 19, 2006, on one of the fastest rockets ever built, New Horizons’ speed varied on its 4.8 billion kilometres trip to Pluto, but it reached nearly 58,000 km/h during the July 14, 2015 flyby. To place the rocket’s power in perspective, it took three days for Apollo 11 to reach the moon; New Horizons passed the moon in nine hours.
The USPS learned of the 29-cent stamp’s journey aboard New Horizons on the eve of last July’s flyover and quickly put plans into place to set the record straight.
For more information about the Pluto–Explored! stamp, click here.