Auction 73 - 12 April 2008
Some "Space" lots and curiosities on offer at the Vaccari Auction n.73 of 12 April 2008
20 July 1969: Man on the Moon. Before the launch of Apollo 11, the cancellation "MOON LANDING - 20 July 1969", celebrating the conquest of the Moon, was tried out on 150 envelopes (stamping tests) in the laboratory on Earth, in order to recreate the same environmental conditions as on the Moon surface. Lot 865 is No. 80 of the "MOON LANDING" covers.
Lot 862 has three blocks of four copies of the American 10 cents stamp issued on 9 September 1969 to celebrate the Apollo 11 Space Mission and Moon Conquest. Every block of four has the autographs of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michel Collins, respectively.
Within the field of Spacemail there are a few varieties that have aroused particular interest.
The first and most significant is the one called the "Unknown Astronaut" and concerns the same stamp, i.e. the 10 cents stamp, celebrating the first human flight to the Moon, issued on 9 September 1969. The variant almost appears to want to allow all Mankind to play a part in the Moon Conquest, as it shows the Astronaut without the US flag on the left sleeve of his spacesuit - a peculiarity relating to only a few copies on a limited number of sheets that were only distributed in Texas. Lot 858 is a block of four of the stamp in question with faint printing on exemplars 1, 2 and 4 and missing print on No. 3, the so-called "Unknown Astronaut".
The second variety concerns the stamp called "Unknown Gemini". Gemini was the third human flight programme into Space, undertaken by the USA between 1963 and 1966 in order to develop techniques for more advanced Space Travels. During the Gemini 4 mission, the first EVA ( Extra-Vehicular Activity) or "Space Walk" took place, when the American astronaut Edward White went outside the Space Vehicle on 3 June 1965.
On 29 September 1967 the stamp dedicated to the mission was issued: a pair of stamps (5+5 cents) portraying the astronaut, the "Gemini 4" Space Capsule and the Earth. In some copies of this stamp the space capsule (and not the astronaut's spacesuit this time) is without the US flag and this is why it is called "Unknown Gemini". Lot 856
And lastly, ten years after the discovery of the first variant, again there are a few copies of the US $2.40 stamp, issued on 20 July 1989 to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Moon Conquest, which have the peculiarity known as "Lunar Ghosts" due to the white colour wrongly used for the spacesuits of the two astronauts portrayed on the stamp. Lot 881
Right from the first mission to the Moon, all the astronauts on the Apollo missions were authorised by Nasa to take with them, for personal use, some souvenirs, including space letters, both around and on the Moon, and these represent one of greatest testimonies of Space Conquest and the "gems" of Astro-philately.
The "mail load" occurred for Apollo flights 11, 13, 14, 15 and 16. The space letters of Apollo 12 ( Lot 868 Apollo 12 Mission - cover No.55 of 87), which due to technical hitches were not loaded, were then embarked on Apollo 15. This mission is also famous for the first motorised trip on the Moon with the "Moon Rover", the special off-road vehicle made especially for moonwalks and commemorated (together with the 10th Anniversary of the Space Conquests) on 2 August 1971 with the stamp (2 values of 8 cents) dedicated to the "moon vehicle" and the first "driver on the Moon", Dave Irwin.
The practice of the "mail load" was stopped due to the suspected abuse made of it by the Apollo 15 astronauts and it was not authorised anymore on the eve of the Apollo 17 launch (7 December 1972). So on the last Mission to the Moon there are no postal testimonies.
With Apollo 16, the Apollo flight "postal missions" come to a close and the 25 space letters transported from 16 to 27 April 1972 by Young, Mattingly and Duke are the last ones to reach the Moon and are considered the rarest lunar space letters.
Lot 867 - Apollo 16 Mission - cover No.14 of 25 signed by Charles M. Duke.
The Americans have certain distinguished Spacemail rarities, like the space letters of the Apollo missions, but the Soviet Union takes first place with the first testimonies of Earth-Space and Space-Earth postal correspondence. These are attributable to the first docking, in January 1969, between two Space vehicles, Soyuz 4 and 5, which allowed the exchange of objects, such as letters, coming from Earth, and to the missions on the space-station "Salyut-7". During these missions the very first letters were written from Space to Earth in the period from 1982 onwards, firstly with the correspondence from the Elbrus Mission Commander Anatoli N. Berezovoy to his family and subsequently written by other Soviet cosmonauts.
Lot 903 is a rare Soyuz-T-9 space letter written by the Commander V. Lyakhov on board the Orbital Station Salyut-7 on 11 August 1983 to his friend and colleague Misha Lisun, sent to Earth with the capsule Cosmos 1443 which undocked from the Salyut-7 Station on 14 August 1983.
Within the field of Astro-philately there are also some other particularly interesting space letters bearing the stamp issued to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Sputnik launch, sent by the Soviet Union on 21 November 1987 on board the transporter spaceship "Progress 33" to the MIR Space base with which the first postal transport between Earth and Space was officially opened.
This "mail load" holds some absolute records: the first official space letter from the USSR, the first official message sent from Earth to human beings on a mission in Space, the first post office in Space or, in other words, the first document to be officially cancelled in Space.
One thousand copies of the first official USSR space letter and the first document with official postal cancellation in "Space" are known to exist - lot 905 , cover No. 844/1000 and lot 906, cover No. 122/1000 - (as well as the 38 initialled exemplars, reserved exclusively for museums and Soviet authorities).
On 16 December 1988, the Soviet Union also issued the first Space postal service stamp, commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the launching of the first Moon probe, the Lunik, that took place on 2 January 1959. On 16 March 1989, 528 Progress-Mir-Soyuz space letters departed from Baykonur, franked as registered letters with the Space postage stamp (lots 910 and 911) and addressed to the crew consisting of Polyakov, Krikalev and Volkov, then regularly returned to Earth bearing the signatures of the astronauts.
Away from the frontiers of the USA and the Soviet Union, to conclude this selection of great protagonists of Space Conquest, lots 940, 941, 943 and 944 represent a few rarities of space letters of Canadian, Chinese and Italian origin.
Many other chapters in Space Conquest history bear testimonies in Spacemail documents. These range from the early days with the incredible flight by Major Yuri Gagarin and the Apollo missions to the Moon, the numerous events during Man's long stay on the legendary MIR and the recent conquests of the ISS (International Space Station). All these events have aroused fascination and a sense of mystery allowing the fantastic challenge of Man in Space to be recounted to the whole world through stamps, letters, telegrams and photographs.