Postcrossing Blog

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This is one of those posts in which we’re jealous of the Little Mail Carriers, because they’re doing all the cool things in our bucket list… 🙄

Some time ago, Cathy (aka beesknees) offered to take them on a visit to the Space Center in Houston, and who could refuse an invitation like that?! The little ones couldn’t get on a padded envelope fast enough in their eagerness to get to Texas! I’m sure you’re just as curious as we were to know about their trip, so here they are to tell us about that adventure.

Hello from Houston… or as they say it around here, howdy! 👋 We’re super excited for today’s visit, and to show you all the rockets and cool things happening here at the Space Center.

Looking up at the Space Center Houston building, where the NASA logo and an illustration of an astronaut are shown

But first, a bit of explaining. The Space Center Houston is the visiting center of the NASA Johnson Space Center (or JSC for short), where human spaceflight training, research, and flight control are conducted. The JSC was built in 1961, and named after the late US president and Texas native, Lyndon B. Johnson, and has been running for over six decades now. When Neil Armstrong said “Houston, the eagle has landed” in 1969, or when Apollo 13 astronauts famously said "Houston, we have a problem" — this is the Houston they were referring to!

So the Space Center is a bit like a museum to showcase all the history and cool stuff that happened (and is still happening!) at the JSC, and we’re eager to explore everything. Even before you enter the building, there’s neat things to see!

Space Shuttle Independence on top of Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 905

Check out this amazing replica of Space Shuttle Independence, sitting on top of the original Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 905! Because shuttles don’t land in the same place where they take off from, carriers are needed to bring them back. Carriers start out as normal Boeing 747 planes, but they are modified to transport shuttles on top of them. A plane carrying a plane on its back! 🤯

Several types of space shuttles and rockets

Around the appropriately named “Rocket Park”, you can also see other rockets, like the Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle, Little Joe II

Saturn V launch vehicle is a huge contraption shaped like a cylinder with a pointy end, and engines on the back.

… or Saturn V, a “super heavy-lift launch vehicle” (aka the big part that spews fire and sends things into orbit)! It’s hard to convey how massive this thing is. In fact, it is the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket used to send humans into space and was regularly used during the Apollo moon program. It has three parts (or stages) that separate at different times, and although the bits here at the Space Center did not make it into space, they were definitely ready to!

More pictures of Saturn V's huge exhausts, and a sign that states the different parts of the launcher were ready to be used in space

Right, it’s time to go see the exhibitions, learn about the different space missions and meet some astronauts inside.

Paper cutouts of astronauts Shannon Walker from the USA, and Soichi Noguchi from Japan, with the Little Mail Carriers on their back.

Here are astronauts Shannon Walker from the USA, and Soichi Noguchi from Japan. They have both been in several missions to space, using different kinds of spacecrafts — including the Dragon 2 capsule for the SpaceX Crew-1 mission. Mr. Noguchi retired this year and is now the honorary director of the CupNoodles Museum. Honestly, we’re a bit jealous of him because how seriously cool is that for a career pivot!

A display with a space suit inside, and another display showing the inside of a command module. The command module interior is cramped, and three astronauts are floating around it

One thing you can explore in the museum are the high-tech spacesuits that several astronauts wore on their missions, and how these have changed over the years. And you can also check out the inside of a command module, which is the control center and living quarters for most of the lunar missions. It looks quite tight for the humans in there, but I think it would be plenty of space for us.

Displays in the Mars exhibit, feature Mars rovers and a huge rock, atop of which the Little Mail Carriers are sitting.

We were especially intrigued by the red planet and the missions that made it there! Feeling the textures of a real Mars rock on our feet was a unique experience. Do you think humans will make it to Mars soon? We hope so… then perhaps we can slip into someone’s pocket, and have an adventure in space!

A view from above towards the Mission Control room. Several desks can be seen, each displaying multiple computers. On the background wall, maps and computer displays are being projected, with data from current space missions.

Because the museum is right in the Johnson Space Center, you can see actual space things happening there — like astronauts training in simulators, or the real Mission Control room monitoring astronauts in the International Space Station. Just… wow!

A picture of Sally Ride wearing her blue NASA uniform, and on the right, a picture of the Little Mail Carriers next to an open mini-notebook which is their passport. They are surrounded by postcards and souvenirs from the museum.

Before leaving, there was still time to salute Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. USPS has issued a stamp in her honor, and we used it to stamp our little passport. We also added a pressed penny from the Space Center, and browsed the postcards on the gift shop on our way out.

The Little Mail Carriers are shown among postcards from the museum shop

And so our visit has come to its end, and we’re a little sad to go… There’s so much to see and learn here at the Space Center in Houston, and we really hope y’all will be able to visit someday!

Our huge thank you to Cathy for taking the little guys on this grand adventure! I wonder where they will end up next… 🤔

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Some weeks ago, the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first humans walking on the moon. Reliving the experience of the Apollo 11 mission was an emotional event all around the world, not just for the millions of people who remember watching the live broadcast on TV with bated breath, but also for the younger generations of dreamers that those astronauts have inspired.

As you can imagine, landing on the Sea of Tranquility is a risky adventure, requiring all sorts of preparations. There’s physical and scientific training to go through, and checklists for all sorts of procedures, but there’s also a more down-to-earth side of things, like life insurance. Can you imagine the price of the insurance for such a perilous and unique mission though? Yup, it’s pretty much astronomical! So how were astronauts supposed to make sure their families were looked after in the event they didn’t make it back to Earth?

When faced with this situation, Apollo 11 astronauts Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong came up with a cunning secret plan: postal covers! Apollo Mission covers

They were famous and their autographs were greatly prized, so they decided to sign dozens of special envelopes in advance, featuring space-themed stamps and motives. These were to be hand-cancelled by friends at the post office on the day that they landed on the moon, and later delivered to their families. In case something happened to them, they hoped these autographed covers could be sold to collectors, in order to give their families some financial security.

Thankfully, they all came back safe and sound from this grand adventure, and didn’t need to use the postal covers as insurance. 😅 But it was still a brilliant plan! And as expected, these special philatelic items became collectibles, and are highly sought after by astrophilatelists, the branch of philately that focus on space-themed stamps. They continued to be made by astronauts until the 16th Apollo mission, and you can discover more of them on this page. Neat! 🌔

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Have you ever imagined what it would be like to live on Mars? Maybe the question brings to mind flashbacks of Matt Damon cultivating his crop of potatoes on The Martian… but what about other important stuff, like mail? Who will deliver our postcards from Mars to our friends back on Earth? And how will mailboxes on the red planet look like? 🤔

We might not be able to send postcards to space just yet, but with the help of Matthew (aka COSmatthew), some families in Colorado Springs, USA enjoyed a fun space & postcard-themed afternoon this month! He organized a workshop at the Space Foundation Discovery Center that helped everyone sign up for Postcrossing, and send their own space-themed cards to people all around the world. How cool is that?!

Here is Matthew’s report of this event:

Greetings from the beautiful city of Colorado Springs in the United States of America! Our City is a large hub for the space industry in our country, so it’s no surprise that we have the Space Foundation Discovery Center, a top-notch space museum here for which I oversee Guest Relations.

Postcrossing workshop at the Space Foundation Discovery Center!

This Summer, the Space Foundation Discovery Center is exploring the topic of what it will be like to live and work on Mars. One of our activities is a station where you can create your own postcards to send to others to let them know what you’ve been learning. This station has been so popular that I knew adding in Postcrossing would be a natural fit.

Postcrossing workshop at the Space Foundation Discovery Center!

With the help of the Postcrossing staff, our Programs Team went to work learning how to use the Postcrossing platform and how we could best teach our guests how to get the most out of the experience. By the time the “Postcrossing to Mars” workshop came and went, we had a lot of smiling faces and kids (along with adults) who were positively giddy at the prospect of receiving postcards from around the world.

And who knows? One of our custom postcards that was made in the workshop might be coming soon to a mailbox near you!

Postcrossing workshop at the Space Foundation Discovery Center! Postcrossing workshop at the Space Foundation Discovery Center!

Well done Matthew for this very cool workshop, and for bringing Postcrossing to the Discovery Center. Those big monitors make it look like a command center, and it’s really neat to see the website up there! Who would have thought that putting two cool things together would make something even cooler?!