The U.S. Postal Service will pay tribute to NASA's Mars Pathfinder mission in a Dec. 10 ceremony to unveil its new $3 Priority Mail stamp, which features a panoramic view of the Martian landscape with the rover still stowed on a petal of the Pathfinder lander.
The ceremony, which begins at 10 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on the mall of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, will be opened with music by the U.S. Marine Corps' Third Marine Corps Aircraft Wing Band and a brief introduction by JPL Deputy Director Larry Dumas. Dr. Robert Parker, manager of the NASA Management Office at JPL and Pasadena Postmaster Robert Mysel will preside over the activities, which will culminate in the unveiling of the stamp by Dumas and Dr. Tirso del Junco, chairman of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors.
This event is not open to the general public, but news media and photographers are invited to cover the ceremonial unveiling.
The Pathfinder image selected for the $3 priority mail stamp was one of the first to be transmitted after landing on July 4, 1997. In the foreground the Sojourner rover is still folded up and waiting to be released from the petal of the lander. Within a day of landing, Sojourner had exited the lander's ramp to begin its travels around the landing site. Fifteen million stamp sheets have been printed for first day issuance on Dec. 10, with information about the image and the mission printed on the reverse side of the sheets.
"That first image of Pathfinder and Sojourner sitting safely on the surface of Mars ignited worldwide interest in our efforts to explore Mars," said JPL Director Dr. Edward C. Stone. "It is an honor for this mission to be recognized by issuance of this special U.S. postage stamp."
"As one of the most significant achievements in the history of America's space program, it is fitting that the Pathfinder mission be honored on a U.S. postage stamp," added Postmaster General Marvin Runyon. "When this stamp lands in stamp collections or on priority mail packages nationwide, it will be a reminder of the unmatched ingenuity that leads the world in space exploration."
The Mars Pathfinder stamp is the third U.S. stamp to incorporate invisible images to prevent counterfeiting, the Postal Service reported. The hidden text, "Mars Pathfinder, July 4, 1997," and the letters USPS are not visible to the naked eye but can be viewed by using a decoder lens, which is available through the Postal Service's Philatelic Fulfillment Center in Kansas City, MO.
In its 83 days of continuous surface operations, Mars Pathfinder returned 2.6 billion bits of information, including more than 16,000 images from the lander and 550 images from the rover. Scientists also obtained more than 15 chemical analyses of rocks and extensive data on winds and other weather conditions. The last successful data transmission cycle from Pathfinder was completed on Sept. 27, which was Sol 83 of the mission.
For further information about the event, contact the JPL Public Information Office at (818) 354-5011.
The Mars Pathfinder mission is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. The mission is the second in the Discovery program of fast track, low-cost spacecraft with highly focused science goals. JPL is managed by the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.
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