2001 – A Space Odyssey

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Homage to its Creator from Bert van Eijck

The British Post Office honoured Wells in June 1995 with no less than four stamps, all somewhat unusual, having been computer generated. Each stamp has the author’s name and the particular works it represents. The 25p stamp represents Wells’ best known book ‘The Time Machine’, a tale about a people transported into either the past or the future. ‘Space Travel’. The 30p issue is a clear pointer to The First men in the Moon whilst ‘The War of the Worlds’ is the subject of the 35p stamp with the key idea ‘Alien Invasion’ written across the stamp. The fourth and highest denomination with the wording ‘The Shape of Things to Come’ and with ‘Futuristic’ in bold face leaves no doubt that it is all about possible futures.

Finally, a novelty from the U.S. two Space Shuttle stamps issued in November 99 have hidden within the design a text, which can only be read using a special decoder lens. Both stamps – the Shuttle Landing ($3.20) issued 9.11.99 and the Boeing with a spaceship as cargo ($11.75 issued 19.11.99) have the encoded name of six American space shuttles Enterprise, Colombia, Challenger, Atlantis, Endeavour and Discovery. Unfortunately there is a minor misspelling with ‘Endeavor’ instead of the original ‘Endeavour’.

Contrary to what was generally understood and publicised at the time, the Boeing with its shuttle was not seen landing at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. Although its departure was witnessed it was the Rockwell airbase in Palmdale, California. Rockwell is the builder of the space shuffle. Also hidden with the overall picture of the two stamps are in he initial U.S.P.S. for United States Postal Services). Microprinting is used by the U.S. postal authorities on stamps of high denomination. In this instance a magnifying glass is all that’s required to spot the initials.

As for the Russians it looks as though they intend keeping the ageing MIR aloft yet while. Strengthened somewhat it still attracts fresh crew members not just Russian either but astronauts of all nationalities. Looking back to the article “A MIR matter of months…” (Orbit March 99) it seems the final goodbye is yet to come. With the building of the new space station now well under way the Americans are keen to have all energies especially Russia’s commitment, channeled towards its construction. This according to NASA will be not be the case as long as MIR continues to be supported. Whatever happens next, the first Slovakian astronaut’s mission to MIR has been accomplished. Ivan Bella’s eight day stint in space is well and truly behind him. The Slovakia post wasted no time in announcing an issue in honour of him issued on 15th June 1999.

* Editor’s Note:

It is widely recognised that the name HAL is but one letter off IBM in each case? Coincidence?

This article first appeared in the Dutch magazine Mijn Stokpaardje in March 1999 and was specially translated for Orbit by Mrs. Angela Paterson of Elgin.

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