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Next Month marks the 50th Anniversary of the United States landing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. As a prelude I have got a random selection of stamps depicting milestones in what became known as "The Space Race". The Soviet Union were clear leaders with America lagging behind and faced with numerous public relations disasters such as rockets exploding on the launch pad or shortly thereafter - all widely reported on and often televised. It is probable that the Russians had similar events that were never made public.

As a kid in the '60s I couldnt get enough of it and became an avid reader of every snippet of info I could lay hands on.


Apollogies for the poor images - my scanner is obviously broken and I thought it better to have blurry pictures than none at all.

Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky was a Russian rocket scientist and pioneer of the astronautic theory. Along with the French Robert Esnault-Pelterie, the German Hermann Oberth and the American Robert H. Goddard, he is considered to be one of the founding fathers of modern rocketry and astronautics. His works later inspired leading Soviet rocket engineers such as Sergei Korolev and Valentin Glushko and contributed to the success of the Soviet space program. Both the Soviets and Americand had captured German scientests from the V2 missile program with Werner von Braun being the most famous on the American side with his develoment of the Saturn 5 which propelled the moon missions. It is sometimes said that the Nazi connection was "The Dark Side of the Moon missions" despite most of the Germans who ended up in America never charged for any war crimes and eventually being granted citizenship.

Sputnik 1 was the first artificial Earth satellite. The Soviet Union launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4 October 1957 for International Geophysical Year, orbiting for three weeks before its batteries died, then silently for two more months before falling back into the atmosphere. It was a 58 cm diameter polished metal sphere, with four external radio antennas to broadcast shortwave radio pulses. The American public were horrified that "The Commies" had managed to do such a thing as America was as they percieved it the far superior technical nation. Hearing its beep beep beep..... being broadcast as it soared overhead reminded them they were lagging behind and fueled fears over the Soviet capacity to launch missiles at mainland USA

Laika was a Soviet space dog who became one of the first animals in space, and the first animal to orbit the Earth. Laika, a stray mongrel from the streets of Moscow, was selected to be the occupant of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 that was launched into outer space on 3 November 1957.

Little was known about the impact of spaceflight on living creatures at the time of Laika's mission, and the technology to de-orbit had not yet been developed, so Laika's survival was never expected. Some scientists believed humans would be unable to survive the launch or the conditions of outer space, so engineers viewed flights by animals as a necessary precursor to human missions. The experiment aimed to prove that a living passenger could survive being launched into orbit and endure a micro-g environment, paving the way for human spaceflight and providing scientists with some of the first data on how living organisms react to spaceflight environments.

Laika died within hours from overheating, possibly caused by a technical failure. The true cause and time of her death were not made public until 2002; instead, it was widely reported that she died when her oxygen ran out on day six or, as the Soviet government initially claimed, she was euthanised prior to oxygen depletion.

Once again the Soviets show up the Americans. Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin a Soviet Air Forces pilot and cosmonaut who becomes the first human to journey into outer space, achieving a major milestone in the Space Race; his capsule Vostok 1 completed one orbit of Earth on 12 April 1961. Gagarin became an international celebrity and was awarded many medals and titles, including Hero of the Soviet Union, his nation's highest honour. Vostok 1 was Gagarin's only spaceflight but he served as the backup crew to the Soyuz 1 mission, which ended in a fatal crash. He later served as the deputy training director of the Cosmonaut Training Centre , which was subsequently named after him. Gagarin died in 1968 along with another pilot when the MiG-15 training jet he was piloting crashed. He is buried within the Kremlin.

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova was the first woman to have flown in space with a solo mission on the Vostok 6 on 16 June 1963. Tereshkova also became the first civilian to fly in space as she was only honorarily inducted into the Soviet Air Force in order to join the Cosmonaut Corps. Before her recruitment as a cosmonaut, Tereshkova was a textile-factory assembly worker and an amateur skydiver.

The Mercury Seven were the group of seven astronauts for Project Mercury announced by NASA on April 9, 1959. They are also referred to as the Original Seven and Astronaut Group 1. They piloted all the manned spaceflights of the Mercury program from May 1961 to May 1963. These seven original American astronauts were Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton.


On May 5, 1961 only 23 day after Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union became the first person in space, NASA astronaut Alan Shepard launched  aboard his Freedom 7 on a Mercury-Redstone rocket to become the first American in space. His historic flight lasted 15 minutes, 28 seconds and did not achieve orbit being only a ballistic lob to enable the United States to state thy were capable of launching a man into space. 

Unlike Gagarin, Shepard manually controlled his spacecraft's attitude, and landed inside it.

Gus Grissom was the pilot of Mercury-Redstone 4 (Liberty Bell 7), the second American suborbital flight, on July 21, 1961. At the end of the flight, the capsule's hatch blew off prematurely after it landed in the Atlantic Ocean. Grissom was picked up by recovery helicopters, but the blown hatch caused the craft to fill with water and sink

The first American to orbit was John Glenn aboard Friendship 7, launched 20 February 1962 on a Mercury-Atlas rocket. As well as becoming the first American to orbit the Earth, he was the fifth person and third American in space.

Gherman Stepanovich Titov on 6 August 1961, became the second human to orbit the Earth, aboard Vostok 2, preceded by Yuri Gagarin on Vostok 1. He was the fourth person in space, counting suborbital voyages of US astronauts Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom. He was the first Soviet to manually control his craft.

Titov's flight finally proved that humans could live and work in space. He was the first person to orbit the Earth multiple times (a total of 17), to spend more than a day in space, to sleep in orbit and to suffer from space sickness. In fact, he also holds the record for being the first person to vomit in space. He was the first to pilot a spaceship personally and he made the first manual photographs from orbit and also was the first person to film the Earth

Project Mercury was the first human spaceflight program of the United States, running from 1958 through 1963. An early highlight of the Space Race, its goal was to put a man into Earth orbit and return him safely, ideally before the Soviet Union. Taken over from the US Air Force by the newly created civilian space agency NASA, it conducted twenty uncrewed developmental flights (some using animals), and six successful flights by astronauts. The program, which took its name from Roman mythology, cost $2.2 billion adjusted for inflation. The astronauts were collectively known as the "Mercury Seven", and each spacecraft was given a name ending with a "7" by its pilot.

The Mercury space capsule was produced by McDonnell Aircraft, and carried supplies for about one day in a pressurized cabin. Mercury flights were launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida, on launch vehicles modified from the Redstone and Atlas D missiles. The capsule was fitted with a launch escape rocket to carry it safely away from the launch vehicle in case of a failure. The flight was designed to be controlled from the ground via the Manned Space Flight Network, back-up controls were outfitted on board. Small retrorockets were used to bring the spacecraft out of its orbit, withan ablative heat shield protecting it from the heat of  reentry. Finally, a parachute slowed the craft for a water landing. Both astronaut and capsule were recovered by helicopters deployed from a US Navy ship.

Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov. On 18 March 1965, he became the first human to conduct extravehicular activity (EVA), exiting the capsule during the Voskhod 2 mission for a 12-minute spacewalk. Connected to the craft by a 5.35-metre (17.6 ft) tether, at the end of the spacewalk, Leonov's spacesuit had inflated in the vacuum of space to the point where he could not re-enter the airlock. He opened a valve to allow some of the suit's pressure to bleed off and was barely able to get back inside the capsule

He was one of the 20 Soviet Air Force pilots selected to be part of the first cosmonaut group in 1960

During the Gemini 4 mission on June 3, 1965, Ed White became the first American to conduct a spacewalk lasting 21 minutes. A defect in the capsule's hatch latching mechanism caused difficulties opening and closing the hatch, which delayed the start of the EVA and put White and his crewmate at risk of not getting back to Earth alive

  

Whilst Gemini was Americas test bed for maneuvering and docking of spacecraft, Apollo was the series for the moon shots, The Apollo program, was the third United States human spaceflight program carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). First conceived during Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration as a three-man spacecraft to follow the one-man Project Mercury which put the first Americans in space, Apollo was later dedicated to President John F. Kennedy's national goal of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" by the end of the 1960s, which he proposed in an address to Congress on May 25, 1961.

Apollo 1, was to be the first crewed mission of the United States Apollo program. Planned as the first low Earth orbital test of the Apollo command and service module with a crew, to launch on February 21, 1967, the mission never flew; a cabin fire during a launch rehearsal test at Cape Kennedy  on January 27 killed all three crew members—Command Pilot Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee—and destroyed the command module (CM). The name Apollo 1, chosen by the crew, was officially retired by NASA in commemoration of them on April 24, 1967

Apollo 8, the second manned spaceflight mission flown in the Apollo space program, was launched on December 21, 1968, and became the first manned spacecraft to leave low Earth orbit, reach the Moon, orbit it, and return. The crew—Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders were the first humans to fly to the Moon, to witness and photograph an Earthrise, and to escape the gravity of a celestial body. Apollo 8 was the third flight and the first crewed launch of the Saturn V rocket and was the first human spaceflight from the Kennedy Space Center, located adjacent to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. .

Apollo 8 took 68 hours (almost three days) to travel the distance to the Moon. The crew orbited the Moon ten times over the course of twenty hours, during which they made a Christmas Eve television broadcast in which they read the first ten verses from the Book of Genesis. At the time, the broadcast was the most watched TV program ever. Apollo 8's successful mission paved the way for Apollo 11 to fulfill U.S. president John F. Kennedy's goal of landing a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960s. The Apollo 8 astronauts returned to Earth on December 27, 1968, when their spacecraft splashed down in the northern Pacific Ocean