A postage stamp broke the world record after traveling 3.26 billion miles inside the New Horizons spacecraft and reaching Pluto. It remains to be seen if there will be anyone there to receive the letter sent from Earth or it will be returned to sender.
The Postal Service headquarters honored the record with a very formal ceremony, recollecting the history of letter deliveries on the US territory. For example, in the 19th century, a letter needed almost seven years to go from the West coast to the East coast. Fifty years later, the time was cut to only ten days.
The journey to Pluto took less than ten years, which is considered to be a success. When compared with the 19th-century methods of transportation, the distance of 3 billion miles would have been covered in 47,000 years. Therefore, the spacecraft came in handy to the Postal Service and helped them reach the destination in a relatively small amount of time.
The postage stamp is part of a series issued in 1991 to celebrate space exploration. The item has the value of 29 cents and displays a drawing of the planet stating that Pluto was not yet explored.
At that time, the world knew very little of Pluto. Showing quite a bit of sense of humor, NASA placed the stamp in the spacecraft in 2006, upon New Horizon’s departure.
“I have to say, it was a beautiful stamp. It really inspired us when we were building New Horizons to explore this last of the classical planets. Well, we canceled that stamp last July when we flew by Pluto,” said Alan Stern, the mission’s principal investigator.
To celebrate New Horizons flyby, the Postal Service issued a new series of stamps that state that Pluto is now explored and shows an image of the planet taken during the recent mission.
Approaching Pluto’s science showed scientists that dwarf planets have sophisticated features, starting with massive volcanoes up to hydrocarbon seas, geysers, and hidden seas.
The spacecraft reached the closest to the planet on the 14th of July 2015, when it flew at 7,800 miles away from Pluto. The scientists need more than 16 months to download all the data and even more to analyze it.
New Horizons broke a world record of its own as being the fastest spacecraft leaving the Earth, with a speed of 36,250 mph. While 47 years ago Apollo 11 reached the moon in three days, New Horizons covered the distance in only nine hours.
Image Source: Wikipedia