With just five days remaining until the start of the Twenties, I find myself inundated with non-philatelic pursuits. I live in a country that is over 90 percent Buddhist with most of the remaining population being Muslim or Hindu. Christians make up an extremely small portion of the residents. And yet, Christmas is extremely popular. While the majority of schools throughout the Kingdom remain open on Christmas Day, most of these host parties where all students and teachers are decked-out in red felt shirts, skirts and/or hats and sing very bad renditions of “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”. Of course, Santa Claus (and his sexy sidekick, Santy) must make an appearance to lead the throngs of children in games until the unrelenting tropical sun.
I am happy to announce the creation of a Facebook group as an extension of the New Issue posts on pages here on the Philatelic Pursuits blog. Not only do I plan to share the information from this blog to the group, but I also hope that members who join can also share New Issue information that they come across. Eventually, I would like to see members actively trading for stamps with other collectors within the group and perhaps some limited selling as well. Please take a moment and join The Stamps of 2020 group and let’s make the New Year one to remember….
Although I have lived in southern Thailand with its myriad of Royal and Buddhist holidays for going on 14 years now, there are a few American observances that I steadfastly cling to such as Independence Day and Thanksgiving (school is always in session during Christmas and the weather is so hot that I try to avoid the holiday altogether unless I am called upon to wear the Santa Claus costume to the delight of kindergarteners).
My favorite American “celebration”, of course, remains National Stamp Collecting Month each October. It is a rather philatelic month elsewhere as well containing such stamp-related observances as International Letter-Writing Week, World Post Day and several nations’ Stamp Days. In years past, I have promoted the stampy nature of October with a beginning-of-the-month article here on Philatelic Pursuits and the creation of a banner used on my personal Facebook page. For 2018, estimated to be my 35th year as a collector, I plan to step things up a notch or two.
I really don’t know how I missed this, but…
Like most people I know, I eagerly watched the recent fly-by of Pluto by the New Horizons space probe via news feeds on my Facebook page. I’ve had the “space bug” ever since witnessing Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon via grainy black & white images when I was a wee lad of three-and-a-half (probably my earliest memory). Mr. Armstrong even autographed a photo for me about ten years later. I am still a geek at heart and in the 21st century, Facebook provides most of my space news via “likes” on numerous NASA and other science-related pages.
But I completely missed the philatelic aspect. It was only this week that I stumbled across an eBay listing that mentioned the fact that the 29-cent Pluto “Not Yet Explored” stamp issued by the United States on 1 October 1991 had been affixed to the exterior of New Horizons and sent on its way to Pluto and beyond.
Articles on Astronomy.com and collectSPACE tell the full story but the short version is that the Pluto stamp was part of a set of ten commemorating NASA’s exploration of the Solar System to that point. Each of the nine planets (Pluto not yet having been demoted) and the Moon had their image accompanied by a depiction of one of the spacecraft that had studied it. All, that is, but the Pluto stamp which bore the inscription “Not Yet Explored.” Apparently, this rankled a few scientists during the First Day of Issue ceremony held at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It may have even provided some motivation for a future mission. At any rate, some of these scientists felt that the stamp needed to be included on the New Horizons probe.
There are actually nine different objects hitching a ride on this mission – a few ashes from the cremated body of Clyde Tombaugh (the New Mexican who discovered Pluto); the names of some 434,000 people who participated in the “Send Your Name To Pluto” offer by NASA; a CD_ROM picturing the scientists who worked on the New Horizons development; state quarters from both Maryland (where New Horizons was built) and Florida (from where it was launched); a small piece of the Space Ship One private spacecraft; and two U.S. flags accompany the Pluto stamp.
All that needs to be done now if for a new Pluto stamp to be issued by the United States Postal Service. There is even a petition to that effect.