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Brazil launches coin, stamps for astronaut


March 31, 2006 -- The Brazilian Space Agency (Agência Espacial Brasileira, or AEB) will honor the currently on- going spaceflight of their nation's first astronaut, Marcos Pontes, with the introduction of commemorative stamps and coins during a ceremony to be held Monday, April 5.

The stamps, of which there are three that form a single panoramic image, will be limited to a run of one million each and carry a face value of R$ 0,85 (approximately 39 cents U.S.). Like Pontes' flight, which has been entitled Missão Centario, the stamps also honor the centennial of the first heavier-than-air flight by Brazilian aviator Alberto Santo-Dumont in 1906. In addition to Santos-Dumont's 14-bis flying machine, the panes depict a Soyuz launch, orbiting spacecraft, the International Space Station (ISS) and Pontes' personal mission insignia.

The medallions, to be minted in silver and bronze, also display the 14-bis, ISS and Soyuz on one side with the image of a spacewalking astronaut on its reverse. The phrase, "1º vôo brasileiro no espaço" (1st Brazilian flight into space) also appears. The coins will be available to collectors for R$ 135,00 bronze ($61 US) and R$ 185,00 silver ($84 US).

The 5:00 p.m. public event will take place in front of the headquarters of Correios, Brazil's postal agency, at the Praça Dom Pedro II in São Paulo. AEB president Sergio Gaudenzi will be joined by Janio Pohren, president of the Empresa Brasileira de Correios e Telégrafos (ECT), and José dos Santos Barbosa, president of Brazil's Mint.

A similiar ceremony will be held later in Bauru, Pontes' hometown. AEB and ECT officials will attend, along with members of the astronaut's family.


For his part, Pontes is flying and will later donate three of the medallions and six stamps, the latter he will cancel on the ISS. The coins, one each, will be given to Brazil's president, AEB and the Mint. Stamps will also go to the AEB and President, as well as to the Santos-Dumont Aerospace Museum, the Brazilian Aerospace Memorial and the National Postal Museum. The remaining carried stamp will be auctioned to benefit project Fome Zero, an effort to end hunger in Brazil.

Marcos Pontes launched to space on March 29 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. On-board Soyuz TMA-8 with him are ISS Expedition 13 crew members Pavel Vinogradov and Jeffrey Williams. After reaching the station later tonight, Pontes will spend a week in space before returning to Earth with the ISS Expedition 12 crew.

In addition to the stamps and coins, Pontes also flew a jersey from Brazil's five-time World Cup champion soccer team and a Brazilian flag. The latter, Pontes said before his flight, was his most important payload. "Actually, I am going with the flag, not the flag going with me," he told reporters. The deep green banner displays constellations as seen in the Southern Hemisphere skies above Brazil.

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