In the first few days of 1962, Project Gemini began to take shape. This project built upon the successes of Project Mercury and determined requirements of subjecting astronauts to longer flights in space. Between March 1965 and November 1966, NASA’s Gemini missions tested equipment and procedures that would be essential for the upcoming Apollo Moon missions. The Gemini IV mission included the first spacewalk (extravehicular activity) by an American astronaut, Edward White. Later flights accomplished and perfected rendezvous and docking of two separate space craft components.
To celebrate the Gemini missions, the Post Office Department (POD) issued two commemorative stamps. The issue featured one design across two stamps, a first for the Post Office Department. Designer Paul Calle prepared several preliminary sketches for this issue. Some included a dove, representing the peaceful purpose of the missions. Other sketches featured rockets bearing the image of the US flag. Ultimately, the final design shows an astronaut tethered to his Gemini spacecraft with the Earth in the background. Calle did not intend for his design to represent any individual, since it was against POD regulations to feature a living person on a US postage stamp. However, the equipment in the image made it evident that he had used NASA’s photographs from the Gemini IV mission. Some asked for a commemorative stamp honoring the Apollo I astronauts who had recently died. However, this idea was rejected as other astronauts had died without commemoration, and thousands of soldiers were dying in the Vietnam War.