1997 Mars Pathfinder (Souvenir Sheet)
- The largest US stamp ever produced for regular postage and the largest of any kind since the newspaper and periodical stamps of 1865
- Honors the Pathfinder mission that successfully reached Mars in July 1996
- Last stamp issued in 1997
$3, Priority Mail Rate
First Day of Issue:
December 10, 1997
First Day City:
Printed for Stamp Venturers by J.W. Fergusson & Sons, Richmond, Virginia; Scrambled Indicia produced by Graphic Security Systems Corporation of Lake Worth, Florida
Photogravure with Scrambled Indicia
Pane of 1 (Horizontal)
11.1 (A small perforated “USA” is at the center of the bottom row of perforations. A row of vertical slits extends from each lower corner of the stamp to bottom edge of selvage.)
Block tagging over stamp
Why the stamp was issued:
To celebrate the Pathfinder mission that reached Mars on July 4, 1996. This stamp was issued as a commemorative and was not intended to replace the 1995 Challenger definitive stamp that covered the Priority Mail rate.
About the stamp design:
This stamp is the largest ever produced for regular postal use and the largest of any since the newspaper and periodical stamps of 1865. It measures 3.0 x 1.5 inches. It pictures the surface of Mars as viewed from the camera in Pathfinder. It shows the Sojourner
cover on one of the three pod doors that opened after Pathfinder landed on the surface. Part of a deflated air bag surrounds the pod leaf holding Soujourner
. The rover appears in the collapsed position in which it traveled aboard the spacecraft. The background shows a view of the Ares Vallis region of Mars. Muted reds and browns are the main colors on the stamp, similar to the pictures sent back from Pathfinder of the Martian surface. USPS head of stamp design Terrence McCaffrey designed the stamp himself with images from the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory website.
“MARS PATHFINDER/JULY 4, 1997” repeated horizontally and “USPS/USPS” repeated horizontally in alternate lines over image portion of stamp and selvage design. Only viewable with special stamp decoder.
First Day City:
The First Day of Issue Ceremony was held at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, part of the California Institute of Technology which conducts the Mars missions for NASA.
History the stamp represents:
NASA launched the Mars Pathfinder on December 4, 1996. The rover landed on Mars on July 4, 1997. Over the next few months, the rover moved across the Martian surface analyzing the planet’s atmosphere, climate, geology, and the composition of its rocks and soil. In all, it sent back 2.3 billion bits of data, 16,500 pictures, and took 8.5 million measurements. Pathfinder sent back its last data transmission on September 27, 1997.
To honor this achievement, the USPS planned a special stamp. Issued on December 10, 1997, the Mars Pathfinder Priority Mail stamp was the last stamp issued that year. The design pictures the first image sent from Pathfinder – an image of the remote-controlled vehicle, Sojourner, which collected data about the soil and rocks. The Mars pathfinder’s robotic rover was named for Sojourner Truth. Measuring three inches across by one-and-a-half inches high, the Mars Pathfinder is the largest US postage stamp ever issued.