Space Cover #23, ASTP Launch Cover ------------------
This week's space cover comes from Bob McLeod's collection and is a result of some ingenuity and deception on his part. His deception resulted in what is probably a unique cover marking the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) launch. The cover was cacheted with the official NASA/KSC rubber stamp cachet and the KSC machine cancel is the standard type in use at KSC at that time and correctly dates the cover for the US ASTP launch on July 15, 1975. However what makes this cover very different from the thousands of ASTP official NASA/KSC cacheted covers is the stamp affixed as postage.
Close examination reveals that it is not a US stamp and is in actuality a postage stamp from the Soviet Union. In fact, it is a well-known Soviet ASTP stamp and examples can be found on many Soviet ASTP covers, but certainly not normal to be found as the only postage stamp on US ASTP covers! The painting and design of this Soviet-US linkup was done by Soyuz ASTP Commander, Alexi Leonov, who is best known as the 1st man to walk in space, as well as an accomplished artist.
The Leonov/Soviet ASTP stamp was not originally the only stamp on the cover that was sent to KSC to be cacheted/cancelled for the US-ASTP launch. A regular 10-cent stamp was also on the cover and affixed below the Soviet stamp. However, the US stamp was affixed on top of a peelable label that was trimmed to the same size as the stamp. They were applied to the cover and then after the cover returned, the US stamp on top of the label underneath were both removed leaving no indication that another stamp had been on the cover.
The USPS would not be happy to know of this postal deception, but in this case the deception resulted in an unusual and probably unique cover from the very popular ASTP program.