Focus on Project Mercury (1961-3)

Harvey Duncan and Robert Atkinson

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The Stamps and Patches of Spaceflights Index

The next stamp poses the intriguing question “Was it copied or ‘Do great minds think alike ?’” The Mercury stamp from 19.10.62 Panama set (SG 769-72) bears a striking resemblance to the American stamp (SG 1992) issued 20.2.62. This was the first US commemorative issued simultaneously with the event it honoured, it being placed on sale throughout the country at the exact hour on 20.2.62 that John Glenn’s flight ended. (The Panama MS with the stamp is imperf.)


The Ras Al Khaima “Astronauts” issue (SG 42-9 of 30.6.66) was produced on four sheets of ten stamps. An astronaut in a strip of five followed by five blank stamps then another astronaut etc. Why ? Well, later it was surcharged in a new currency then re-issued again to honour the Apollo 1 astronauts with the blank space filled with spacecraft and astronauts. However, as the new currency was not adopted by the country the philatelic value of the last two sets must be suspect, (perf & Impef.)

The Mongolian set (SG 546-52) has an interesting stamp for Mercury 6 inscribed “Mercury 7 20.2.62”) This is due to their counting all flights which carried a passenger. Glenn was the only if you include the monkeys!

As you know photographs play an important part in space stamp design (thankfully) and using publicity material from President Kennedy’s visits appear on three from my Mercury collection:

Panama issue of 23.4.65 – set of five stamps including one showing Kennedy with Schirra inspecting the capsule (also shown on the MS.)

Paraguay issue (4.9.65) has one stamp of eight in the set showing Kennedy and Johnston along with John Glenn surveying the Mercury capsule. (Also with MS.)

Ras Al Khaima on 21.7.65 issued three stamps including one identical to the Paraguay stamp but larger. This they then printed in a block of four and six for MSs. This was re-issued on 11.4.66 in memory of Kennedy, All exist perf and imperf.

Does anyone know the dates of any of these visits ?

Mercury Capsule Nicknames

The Mercury capsule itself was nicknamed by the astronauts “The Garbage Can.” It was 9ft 6in long and 6 feet at the base with just enough room for a single astronaut to be strapped into a contoured, shock-absorbing couch. May 2nd was selected as Shepard’s launch date but a rain squall postponed it.

So on May 5th ’61 Shepard was back in Mercury which he had nicknamed Freedom 7. Gus Grissom made the second sub-orbital flight on July 21st ’61 and he nicknamed his craft Liberty Bell 7. John Glenn’s flight on 20th Feb 62 was in Friendship 7. Next was the launch of Aurora 7 as nicknamed by Carpenter, then Schirra called his one Sigma 7 on Oct 3, ’62, this being the first to land in the Pacific Ocean.

The astronaut of the sixth and final mission was Gordon Cooper, who climbed into Faith 7 on May 6th 1963. The seventh of the Mercury astronauts, Deke Slayton was grounded because of an erratic heart beat and he did not fly until the ASTP project in 1970.

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The Stamps and Patches of Spaceflights Index