The Story of the American Flag Through Stamps

One Small Step for Man

$2.40 Moon Landing stamp
The 2.40-dollar 20th Anniversary of the Moon Landing stamp was issued July 20, 1989.

Following the Apollo 1 tragedy, NASA and the American government remained resolute that space exploration was still integral to American culture, society and history. On July 20, 1969, President John F. Kennedy’s dream of sending a man to the moon and returning him safely would come to fruition with the Apollo 11 mission. On that day Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin exited the Lunar Module and became the first humans to step foot on the Moon. Neil Armstrong’s famous words as he stepped on to the surface marked the historical significance of the act, “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”

The Unites States Postal Service issued a postage stamp celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Moon landing in 1989. At $2.40, it was the first Priority Mail stamp ever produced. This stamp along with the stamp commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Moon landing feature astronauts planting or holding an American flag on the Moon's surface. Due to the vaccum of space, there is no wind to blow the flag into the position. NASA rigged the flag with wire to extend it out for the appearance of flying in the breeze as it would on Earth.

10-cent First Man on the Moon stamp
The 10-cent Moon Landing stamp was issued September 9, 1969.
$9.95 Moon Landing stamp
The 9.95-dollar 25th Anniversary of the Moon Landing was issued July 20, 1994.

Controversy erupted with the announcement of the twentieth anniversary stamp. Many thought that the stamp obviously portrayed Armstrong and Aldrin, who were still alive at the time. It is against the law for any living person to be depicted on a US postal stamp. However, the USPS never admitted to breaking the law forbidding the portrayal of living people on stamps. As far as they were concerned, the two people depicted on the stamps were considered generic astronauts, not specific people. The stamp was made to commemorate the act of landing on the moon, not the astronauts who actually landed there.