Friday, March 23, 2012

U.S. 1962 4¢ Project Mercury - John Glenn 20.2.1962

U.S. 1962 4¢ Project Mercury Dark Blue and Yellow stamp features the “Friendship 7” space capsule flown by John Glenn in the first successful orbit of the Earth. The mission was the result of a secret project run by the Post Office Department. The Post Office had recently (at the time) started using a Giori Printing Press, which allowed it to produce stamps in two or three colours in a single run (instead of having to send the stamps through for each colour).
In the summer of 1961, the Post Office Department began a special project. The new Giori Press was locked in a separate room accessed only by a small number of postal employees and with a guard to keep others out. No written instructions were given for the project. Rumours in the Department speculated that it was being used to make currency. Instead, it was printing the “Project Mercury” stamp. 
The stamp was sent in sealed packets to postmasters in 305 locations around the country, with specific instructions: “Classified Material. Do Not Open.” The packets were shipped in time for the original launch date – December 21, 1961. Weather caused delays until the end of February.
The secrecy was connected to the planned flight of the “Friendship 7” capsule. The launch was at 9:48 a.m. local time in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and splashed down at 2:43 p.m. At 3:30 p.m., the post offices were informed by telephone,teletype, and telegraph, that they could open the packet and distribute the stamps. If there had been a failure, the stamps would not have been released.
One side effect of the late release was that it gave very limited time to get First Day Covers serviced – an hour and a half, in Eastern states. Cape Canaveral is listed as the official site of the First Day of Issue. There was no Cape Canaveral Post Office until 3:30 p.m., February 20, 1962. That’s when a U.S. Air Force van was made into a temporary post office and called a substation of the Cocoa, Florida, Post Office.

John Herschel Glenn, Jr. (born July 18, 1921) was a former United States Marine Corps pilot, astronaut, and United States senator who was the first American to orbit the Earth and the third American in space. Glenn was a Marine Corps fighter pilot before joining NASA's Mercury program as a member of NASA's original astronaut group. He orbited the Earth in Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962. 

After retiring from NASA, he entered politics as a Democrat and represented Ohio in the United States Senate from 1974 to 1999. Glenn received a Congressional Space Medal of Honour in 1978. He was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990. On October 29, 1998, he became the oldest person to fly in space, and the only one to fly in both the Mercury and Space Shuttle programs, when at age 77, he flew on Discovery (STS-95). As of 2012, Glenn and M. Scott Carpenter are the last living members of the Mercury Seven.

Hemant gave me this wonderful FDC.

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