July 19, 2016 – It’s a new world record that’s being broken every second.
On board NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is a 1991 “Pluto Not Yet Explored” stamp that’s earned a Guinness World Record honor for the farthest distance traveled by a postage stamp.
“Our mission is to make the amazing official,” said Jimmy Coggins, official adjudicator for Guinness World Records, during a presentation ceremony on July 19 in the Hall of Flags at U.S. Postal Service Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The 29-cent “Pluto Not Yet Explored” stamp became a rallying cry for the New Horizons mission team, which affixed it on the spacecraft at Cape Canaveral, Florida, prior to launch on January 19, 2006. The stamp hitched a ride of more than 3.2 billion miles to Pluto, reaching the dwarf planet on July 14, 2015, bringing humanity its first breathtaking close-ups of the mysterious world.
“The ‘Pluto Not Yet Explored’ stamp was cancelled last July when New Horizons flew past Pluto,” New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern told a standing-room only gathering.
The “little stamp that could” is continuing its record-setting journey, now 274-million miles (441-million kilometers) beyond Pluto, continuously breaking the world record it just set. NASA has approved an extended mission for a January 1, 2019 flyby of a Kuiper Belt object one billion miles past Pluto. Known as 2014 MU69, it’s considered one of the early building blocks of the solar system.
“The New Horizons mission to Pluto is not only writing space history, it’s setting and will continue to set a high bar for achievements beyond its many science discoveries,” said Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science.
Dr. Alan Stern is the associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado.