Focus on Project Mercury (1961-3)
Harvey Duncan and Robert Atkinson
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Firstly Harvey Duncan of Falkirk, Scotland takes us through some of Ms pages on the Mercury Project then Bob Atkinson of Preston, Lanes writes about the nicknames of the capsules.
Some issues are particularly interesting in that they not only portray the relevant subject but raise other equally fascinating topics. The following commentary is based on items from my Mercury collection which illustrates just this point.
First, let’s take the Independence set from Burundi (SG 28.34; 49.50) and the Red Cross Centenary from Guinea (SG 404-7) as they pose an intriguing question.
Both sets show a Mercury capsule circling the Earth but whereas the Burundi ones show it travelling from NW to SE over Africa, the Guinea stamps show it going from SW to NE. Which is correct? Or, perhaps are they both wrong or both right? Perhaps we should just say it is artistic licence ! (Incidentally can no-one in Guinea spell “Independence” either? Send for Dan Quayle of “potatoe” fame!)
The set from Paraguay on Mercury 3 (SG 684-70) will have a particular interest for our members who are also keen on astronomy, as the stamps show Alan Glen along with his capsule on four stamps and the planet Saturn on the other three. However, in the background, do the stars form a recognisable pattern ? If they do please me know as I confess to being woeful ignorant on this particular aspect.
On this subject in general, a lot of spacecraft stamps naturally have stars in the background of their designs and I for one would like to know if they depict a constellation etc. If the astronomers amongst us would like to put pen to paper and enlighten us, then our writ-ups would be that much more interesting and accurate.
Incidentally the 50G stamps from this series appears later on a stamp – the issue of June 3, 1968 on “Paraguayan Stamps from 1870-1970” – and also on the miniature sheet. As there are nine stamps in the set and this is the only space related one it’s north worth buying the complete set – or is it?
An interesting miniature sheet from Panama (25.10.68) shows the capsule with portraits of President Kennedy and Vice President Johnstone and between them a triangular stamp with a view of the moon’s surface taken by Ranger 7 travelling at 94.123 km/hr, 4,827 metres from the surface. Below are the six astronauts of the original seven who made it aloft in Mercury. Incidentally keep an eye open for stamps of this issue with margins as astronauts and spacecraft appear there. Also keep a lookout for the issue of 21.3.65 on “The Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy” which do the same thing. Both sets are known perf and imperf.
Togo issued two identical stamps for Gagarin and two for Shepard (SG 297-300,) each stamp in sheetlet form containing portraits of Gargarin and Titov with Shepard and Grissom in the centre of twelve stamps. They are labels not stamps but do add interest to the accompanying stamps.
Surinam did a similar thing for its two stamps of Gagarin and Shepard (SG 493-4, not illustrated) and produced a sheetlet of twelve stamps on each. Each sheet has wide margins on which are depicted modes of travel from Icarus to the motor car and rocket. These are known perf and imperf, but you should look out for the second printing with a lighter tone of colour.
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