Steve Durst, SU 4379.
The Space Cover of the Week for this week, "Got Orange?" is about a few primary recovery ship covers with orange patches that have intrigued me for quite a while. The space cover above shows the recovery of the Apollo 14 crew near Samoa in the South Pacific Ocean. Apollo 14 Commander Alan Shepard, Lunar Module Pilot Ed Mitchell, and Command Module Pilot Stu Roosa, were recovered February 9, 1971, by a UDT team from the USS New Orleans, LPH-11, upon splashdown after their mission.
Take a closer look at the Astrophil cachet showing the recovery of the three astronauts at the end of America's third Moon landing mission. Look further at the command module's orange flotation collar and the orange UDT recovery life raft "Lily Pad" being used to transfer the three astronauts from their spacecraft to the attached life raft, waiting for helicopter transfer back to the USS New Orleans at the end of their Moon landing mission. You are left with the burning question, what does "Got Orange?" have to do with this?
The Morris W. Beck rubber stamped cachet on the airmail cover above dresses up the USS New Orleans Primary Recovery Ship cover for the recovery of the Apollo 14 crew, February 9, 1971, recovered by the ship near Samoa in the South Pacific Ocean. A USS New Orleans' hand cancel ties both the 10c U.S. Man on the Moon airmail stamp and also ties a patch of orange rubberized fabric from the UDT recovery life raft "Lily Pad" used during the recovery of the Apollo 14 crew, Al Shepard, Ed Mitchell, and Stu Roosa. A ship's crew member has placed the orange patch from the UDT life raft on the front of the ship's PRS cover to dress it up, and obligingly, the USS New Orleans' postal clerk has canceled the cover on the Apollo 14 crew's recovery date by the ship, February 9, 1971.
Three years later, a similar scenario plays out with the USS New Orleans again assigned as the Primary Recovery Ship for the final Skylab mission. A Morris Beck rubber stamped cachet is applied to a second cover from the USS New Orleans for completion of the Skylab mission making it a Primary Recovery Ship cover. The cover is canceled on the ship's recovery date, February 8, 1974, of the Skylab IV crew, Commander Jerry Carr, Pilot Bill Pogue, and Science Pilot Ed Gibson, in the Pacific Ocean, 176 miles southwest of San Diego, California. A ship's crew member uses a piece of orange rubberized fabric from the UDT recovery life raft to spruce up his USS New Orleans' cover.
The ship's hand cancel for the recovery date, February 8, 1974, has been applied to the cover, tying the airmail Man on the Moon stamp to the piece of orange rubberized fabric dominating the front of the cover. The orange fabric from the recovery life raft, in turn, is tied to the cover by the Beck red violet rubber stamped cachet for completion of this cover highlighting the final Skylab mission.
Space Cover #187 "Got Orange?"
This week's Space Cover of the Week advances my question, "Got Orange?" It pertains to one of my more eclectic space cover and recovery ship cover collecting interests. This narrow niche area is loosely centered around looking for great space covers and recovery ship covers, and when they are found, the covers give you more than you expected and create an amazing serendipitous response in which you would quietly say to yourself after finding a cover like this, "Hmm, pretty good," but then, a nanosecond later, this simple comment subsides, and you suddenly exclaim, "Wow, this cover is really great!"
I don't know how many of these UDT life raft spiffed up recovery ship covers may be found at club meetings, stamp shows, or smaller space cover auctions but think that the number is very small. The covers probably would not pass the price realization threshold test to be found in major auction house offerings because they would not be pricey enough to garner their attention.
On an earlier occasion several years ago, before I knew what these covers looked like and what they really were, I passed up a superb Gemini primary recovery ship cover that had a piece of medium yellow colored rubberized fabric enhancing the ship's cover, and somewhat similar to the two USS New Orleans primary recovery ship covers pictured above. But, that unusual Gemini primary recovery ship cover with the interesting patch added to it got away from me. The cover is not in my space cover and recovery ship cover collection; it is still out there somewhere.
So, check your recovery ship covers, too, for your space related events. You may be very surprised at what you find. My question remains, "Got Orange?"