"The Columbia is lost. There are no survivors. This day has brought great sadness to our country."
These were the words of President George W. Bush as he addressed the nation and the world about the space shuttle Columbia disaster of Feb. l.
Exploration of space, its heroes and heartaches, have been a subject for numerous U.S. stamps since 1962, when a four-cent stamp honoring Project Mercury was issued. This was followed in 1967 with a pair of 5-cent stamps featuring a space-walking astronaut and the Gemini 4 capsule.
Among the many tributes and accomplishments of the space program have been: views of Apollo 8; Apollo Soyuz; astronauts working in space, exploring the solar system; future mail transportation; landing on the moon; Mariner 10; Mercury; Mars Pathfinder; Palomar Mountain Observatory; Pioneer 10; the shuttle and the space station; Sky Lab 1; Star Trek; United States launches satellites; and Viking missions.
The latest space exploration stamps were issued in 2000 with the theme "Probing the Vastness of Space." Various stamps illustrated the sights from the Hubble telescope and were a tribute to the work of Edwin Powell Hubble.
It is ironic that Col. Rick Husband, commander of the ill-fated Columbia, paid a tribute to the crew of the Challenger, which exploded on Jan. 28, 1986. Said Husband: "The dedication and devotion to the exploration of space was an inspiration to each of us and still motivates people around the world to achieve great things in service to others."
The legacy of Hubble, who died in 1953, is well represented by the Hubble space telescope.
Deployed from the space shuttle Discovery in April, 1990, the Hubble is the largest and most complex astronomical observatory ever placed in orbit.
Here's a way to build your U.S. collection by ordering through the USPS subscription program.
You can subscribe to the First Day Ceremony Program. Each ceremony program includes an agenda and participating list. You get affixed mint stamps with cancellations showing the city and date of issuance. Each package comes with interesting narratives about the issued stamp.
You can call (800)-STAMP-24 for further information or write to Stamp Fulfillment Services, PO Box 219424, Kansas City, MO 64121-9424.