Space Science: What has the UK done for space exploration?

The Space Science set, issued on October 16, celebrates the United Kingdom’s contribution to studying the solar system with six eye-catching images captured by satellites.

The issue is claimed to mark the 50th anniversary of Ariel 1, the first British satellite, which was launched on April 26, 1962. However, all the chosen images were captured by later satellites and probes operated wholly or partly by the European Space Agency, in which the UK is a major player.

Philip Parker of Royal Mail Stamps said: ‘In previous astronomy issues we looked at the distant galaxies, so for this issue we decided to take a more local approach and explore our home solar system.

‘We worked closely with the ESA to determine the content of this issue, and the designers selected recent images gathered by ESA space observatories and probes to produce this fascinating set.’

Designed by Osborne Ross Design, the stamps were printed by Cartor in lithography.


COMMEMORATIVE WORTH  The British involvement justifies this theme, but the set fails to mention Ariel 1

Simple yet informative, these are a cut above the average astronomy stamps

It’s hard to beat the universe’s natural beauty, and the images are very striking

1st class Sun
A startling image, gathered from the ESA’s Solar & Heliospheric Observatory, orbiting midway between the Earth and the Sun, shows particles being ejected from the solar surface.

The UK has played a major part in the design, construction, operation and science of the mission, and SOHO itself was assembled in Portsmouth before being shipped to America for launch in 1995.

1st class Venus
Shot from ESA’s Venus Express probe in orbit around Venus, this image shows clouds in the southern hemisphere of the second planet from the Sun.

Launched in 2005, the mission was proposed by scientists from Oxford University, to study why the planet is so different from Earth. The UK was involved in constructing five out of the seven instruments on board, and continues to help with operating the spacecraft.

77p Mars
Ice in a 35km-wide impact crater was photographed by ESA’s Mars Express probe, Europe’s first mission to the red planet, which was launched in 2003.

The UK was involved in building three of its six instruments, including the camera. The spacecraft also carried the              British-built Beagle 2 lander, which sadly did not survive its descent through the Martian atmosphere.

77p Lutetia
On route to a planned meeting with the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014, the ESA probe Rosetta had a close encounter with the Lutetia asteroid in 2010, taking this photograph of its surface.
75 miles wide, Lutetia orbits within the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

£1.28 Saturn
Lit up by the Sun, the beautiful icy rings of Saturn were photographed by the Cassini-Huygens mission, which was launched in 1997 as a joint project between NASA, the ESA and the Italian space agency to study the planet, its rings and moons.

The Huygens lander separated to explore Titan, while Cassini remains in orbit around Saturn. UK universities and industry contributed to many of the instruments on both parts of the mission.

£1.28 Titan
When the Huygens probe parachuted down to the surface of Saturn’s largest moon in 2005, it became the first man-made object to land on a body in the outer solar system.

The Open University worked on Huygens’ science package, and a British-built sensor was the first part of the lander to make contact with the surface of Titan.

In the presentation pack, astronomy journalist Dr Stuart Clark relates the fascinating stories of the ESA space probes.
A first day cover and stamp cards are also available. 


Set of 6 stamps £5.30
Presentation pack £5.80
Stamp cards £2.70
First day envelope £0.30
First day cover £6.84
TOTAL  £20.94