US Postal Service Releases OSIRIS-REx Stamp in Anticipation of Asteroid Sample Return

NASA’s first asteroid sample mission, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, is set to deliver samples of the asteroid Bennu to the Utah desert on Sunday. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the U.S. Postal Service has released a new stamp featuring artwork of the spacecraft’s descent onto the Utah Test and Training Range. The stamp comes in sheets of 20 and showcases the surface of Bennu, as well as an outer space scene in the background.

The OSIRIS-REx mission began on September 8, 2016, when the robotic probe was launched. After almost two years of mapping Bennu, the spacecraft collected a sample from its surface on October 20, 2020. The mission’s team estimates that up to 250 grams (9 ounces) of rocks and dust were collected. On May 10, 2021, the spacecraft left Bennu’s vicinity to begin its journey back to Earth.

Early Sunday morning, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will jettison its sample return capsule, which will then touch down in Utah. Meanwhile, the main spacecraft will continue its extended mission, known as OSIRIS-APEX, and put itself on a trajectory to encounter the asteroid Apophis.

This mission is historic for the United States as it marks the country’s first asteroid sample mission. It will also deliver the largest-ever sample of a celestial body located beyond the moon. However, the United States is not the first country to collect asteroid samples and return them to Earth. Japan achieved this feat with its Hayabusa and Hayabusa 2 missions in 2010 and 2020, respectively.

To commemorate this significant scientific achievement, the USPS held a first-day-of-issue ceremony for the OSIRIS-REx stamp at the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City. The ceremony featured speeches from USPS business solutions vice president Robert Raines, NASA’s director for planetary science Lori Glaze, and Michael Puzio, who named asteroid Bennu in 2013 when he was only eight years old.

For those unable to attend the ceremony, there is an opportunity to request first-day-of-issue postmarks by mailing in envelopes with the OSIRIS-REx stamp. The USPS will apply the postmark and return the envelope through the mail. There is no charge for the postmark for quantities up to 50, with each additional postmark costing 5 cents. All requests must be postmarked by January 22, 2024.

In addition to the stamp, collectors and the public can purchase various OSIRIS-REx-themed collectibles, including first-day-of-issue covers with ink or digital color postmarks, commemorative panels, portfolios with more information about the mission, framed sets of stamps, press sheets, and mementos from the first-day-of-issue ceremony. These items are available for purchase on the USPS website.

Overall, the landing of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and its delivery of samples from the asteroid Bennu is a momentous achievement in space exploration. It represents a significant step forward in our understanding of celestial bodies and their composition. The USPS stamp commemorating this mission allows individuals to be part of this exciting moment in science and serves as a reminder of our ongoing exploration of the cosmos.