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  Space Cover 206: Flown on Soyuz, Mir, Atlantis

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Author Topic:   Space Cover 206: Flown on Soyuz, Mir, Atlantis
Bob M

Posts: 1367
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 03-23-2013 12:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space Cover of the Week, Week 206 (March 24, 2013)

Space Cover #206: Flown on Soyuz TM-21/Mir/STS-71 Atlantis

On June 29, 1995, US Space Shuttle Atlantis docked with the Russian Mir space station, accomplishing the Space Shuttle Program's first international docking mission, and first international docking mission since ASTP, 20 years earlier.

Space Shuttle Atlantis was launched from KSC on June 27 with a crew of seven, intending to transfer the two Russian cosmonauts onboard to Mir and then return to earth the three Mir-18 cosmonauts launched March 14, 1995 on Soyuz TM-21, including American astronaut Norman Thagard.

As usual, covers were onboard Mir, flown there by the Mir-18 cosmonauts on Soyuz TM-21, and many were autographed by those onboard. Various covers were signed, but with many not signed by the entire ten-person party on Mir. The flown June 27-dated cover shown here was only signed by 8 of the 10 people while onboard Mir, lacking Mir-19 cosmonauts Anatoly Solovyev's and Nikolai Budarin's autographs.

Desiring my cover to be signed by all ten, and complete, the cover was sent to Autographica 2001 in London for Solovyev's autograph, then in 2007, Budarin signed while in Houston (Dating it "28 May 07"). So of the ten autographs on this cover, eight were signed in space while onboard Mir; one was signed in London; and one in Houston.

My cover experienced a lot: launched by Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome; spent 115 days on orbit, mostly on Mir; and returned to earth and landed at KSC on Space Shuttle Atlantis.

This photo of the joined Shuttle/Mir pair was taken from Soyuz TM-21 by the Mir-18 crew, during a brief fly-around of the Mir/Shuttle complex.

This STS-71 KSC launch cover was autographed by the seven-person ascent crew. Unflown STS-71 covers are all but unknown with Norm Thagard's autograph, as he stopped signing covers around the time of his previous flight, STS-42, and with one known exception, has refused to sign any STS-71 covers after returning to earth.

Many covers were flown on Mir during its long time in orbit and they generally aren't hard to find or too expensive, but covers flown on the historic Soyuz TM-21/STS-71 first Mir/Shuttle docking mission and signed by all ten involved, are fairly rare.


Posts: 868
From: Shady Side, Md
Registered: Sep 2004

posted 03-24-2013 10:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Apollo-Soyuz   Click Here to Email Apollo-Soyuz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bob- Very interesting information. All I would need now is a flown ASTP cover for my ASTP exhibit!!!

John Macco
Space Unit #1457

Joel Katzowitz

Posts: 325
From: Marietta GA USA
Registered: Dec 1999

posted 03-24-2013 12:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Joel Katzowitz   Click Here to Email Joel Katzowitz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great covers Bob.

Of course STS-71 also had the distinction of being the 100th U.S. manned spaceflight. An honor that resulted in a commemorative cancel to celebrate the event. You may recall that STS-70 would have had that honor if a woodpecker hadn't become so enamored with the ET that he pecked several holes into the insulating foam. That resulted in the stack being returned to the VAB for repair and consequently being beaten off the pad by STS-71.

Bob M

Posts: 1367
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 03-24-2013 04:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks, guys. I was very fortunate to be able to get one of these flown covers and to later have the opportunity to have autographs of the two missing cosmonauts applied.

Tomorrow I plan to post a scan showing two pictorial cancels commemorating the historic Mir/Shuttle docking, and with STS-71 being the 100th US spaceflight (with possibly both cancels being designed by Joel).

Concerning my posting about these Soyuz TM-21/STS-71 flown covers, my information came from an article by Igor G. Rodin in the January 1996 issue of 'The Astrophile'.

It would be interesting to learn how many of the Soyuz TM-21/STS-71 flown covers were signed by all ten.

With Thagard said to have not signed any STS-71 covers after the flight, the only possibility to obtain complete, ten-person, crew signed covers (signed by the complete STS-71 ten-person ascent and landing crews), are these flown covers.

Ken Havekotte

Posts: 1823
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 03-24-2013 06:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bob, Great historic flown cover indeed, and if I recall, didn't you help me acquire one of these with eight signatures on it?

By the way, Thagard was here at Kennedy Space Center during the ASF's 2012 autograph and memorabilia show last November.

He did sign crew-completion items for me (mostly STS-7), however, I don't think any that I had with me were STS-71 related.

But I am sure he would now sign just about anything put in front of him.

During the show, I did provide some of my "First American Astronaut aboard a Russian spaceship" cachet covers that pictures Thagard as a Soyuz TM-21 crewman. They were cancelled at Baykonur on Mar. 14, 1995, and again with a second postmark for STS-71's return-landing of shuttle Atlantis from the space station on July 7, 1995, with Thagard aboard.

I know that a few collectors were able to have Thagard sign them during his show appearances. So I am confident that Dr. Thagard will autograph STS-71 material from now on.

Hopefully we'll again see Thagard at another autograph/memorabilia show and get him to autograph some Mir-18/TM-21/STS-71 items.

Bob M

Posts: 1367
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 03-25-2013 09:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
By appearing at the ASF's November autograph show, Dr. Thagard did put himself in a position where it would have been awkward for him to turn down any autograph request, since the funds were going to the scholarship fund.

The collector I mentioned that had him sign and complete an unflown STS-71 cover (signed by all ten) had a difficult time convincing him to sign the STS-71 cover. Thagard said he's seen them being sold for a lot and didn't want to sign anymore. But he relented and did add the collector's name on the cover for identification purposes. He also signed and completed a very scarce STS-42 crew signed cover for that collector.

So, Ken, I believe that it is crew completion covers that Thagard is so opposed to signing, especially the valuable STS-71 covers.

Later I'll post some scans of the cover Ken mentioned commemorating Thagard's Soyuz-21 flight and also covers showing the special 100th US space flight cancel and the Mir/STS-71 docking mission cancel.

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27327
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 03-25-2013 09:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Originally posted by Bob M:
...since the funds were going to the scholarship fund.
Not necessarily true; the ASF doesn't require the astronauts to donate their signing fees to the foundation. Some do, some don't; some donate all the proceeds, some don't; some make an annual donation, some don't.

At the show, astronauts are free to reject signing any item they feel uncomfortable signing.

Ken Havekotte

Posts: 1823
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 03-25-2013 12:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Good to know, Bob, but Thagard did sign for me a few crew completion photos and a cover or two from STS-7.

Since there was no hesitation in completing a STS-42 crew-signed cover that was done for a collector friend of yours, perhaps he would be willing to sign/complete STS-71 items?

I'll make sure, next time I see him, if his autograph policy for the ASF would include STS-71.

Yes, Robert is correct. For attending signing astronauts at the ASF shows in November, not all of their monies generated from their autograph appearances are given back to the Foundation. They can do with it as they please, but of course, many do make a donation or contribution to the ASF afterwards. But how much, on what conditions, etc. is totally up to each astronaut participate.

And of course, any of the attending former astronauts can reject or refuse to sign any item, as Robert pointed out.

Bob M

Posts: 1367
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 03-25-2013 02:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Dr. Thagard probably only had a problem with signing my friend's unflown STS-71 cover because those he signed on Mir had been so commercialized. I don't believe that he has had any problem signing any STS-71 photo/litho.

It looks like my friend was fortunate that Thagard did agree to sign his STS-71 cover, but it did take a good bit of arm twisting.

Here is a cover canceled with both the 100th US Manned Spaceflight cancel and the First American-Russian Shuttle-Mir Docking Mission cancel. And below that is a nifty cover featuring Woody Woodpecker concerning the woodpecker damage to the ET on STS-70.

And below those is the cover that Ken mentioned that honors Dr. Thagard as the first American astronaut aboard a Russian Spaceship. It would have been a great cover to have had Dr. Thagard sign at the ASF event.

Ken Havekotte

Posts: 1823
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 03-25-2013 06:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bob, Good to see the Thagard cachet cover depicted here as it was a joint effort with my firm (SpaceCoast Cover Service) and a German space philatelic dealer. While many were dual-cancelled processed, the majority of the covers were done as singles from Russia. I think we had printed around a thousand or more of them.

The STS-70 printed mission cachet with a rubber stamp impression at the bottom right shown above is another personal favorite of mine.

But only a few of the rubber stamped (not more than a hundred or so) were actually produced by my space cover firm. Here is some background as to why the unusual "woodpecker" covers were produced, all in fun, of course:

I refer to it as the pre-launch "Woodpecker Holes..." special event cover cancelled on June 8, 1995. Note that I had affixed selected colorful bird-related postage stamps for the June 8th shuttle "stack" rollback to the VAB.

Early on, the 70/Discovery mission was delayed, causing a flip-flop of the STS-70/71 liftoff days, so that Discovery could fly no earlier than June 8, with STS-71/Atlantis to follow in late June 1995.

But the schedule was again in jeopardy over an extended Memorial Day holiday weekend when Northern Flicker Woodpeckers at Pad 39B poked about 200 holes in Discovery's External Tank foam insulation.

Attempts to repair the damaged holes at the launch complex were unsuccessful, thus, requiring a rollback of the full shuttle "stack" on June 8, with a new launch date in sight for July 13, which was successfully attempted in 1995.

The very top cover entry, of course, is another official mission emblem or "patch" design cachet produced by my company.

The full-colored mission insignia covers for STS-71, fully NASA-approved that were sold throughout the Kennedy Space Center launch viewing sites and exchange stores, were the first shuttle covers to include a printed 2-sided insert card.

Since STS-71/Atlantis was going to be a big history-maker for U.S. human spaceflight and the shuttle program, I thought it would be a good idea to have the U.S. Postal Service here at Kennedy provide a special pictorial postmark device(s) cancelling service available.

STS-71, as planned, would be the 100th American spaceflight to date (at the time) from 1961-95. But in addition, shuttle Atlantis on the same mission would be the first docking of an U.S. shuttle crew with the Russian Space Station Mir, with two cosmonauts and an American (Thagard) already onboard the orbiting outpost.

Two separate or different designs postmarks were considered for official postal uses.

The first would incorporate a celebration of America's 100th human spaceflight with a second commemorating the first docking between a shuttle orbiter and the Mir space station.

Both cancel devices would also have the capability to change-out their dates to include other mission philatelic coverages.

Veteran graphic designer Joel Katzowitz, one of my favorite designers of space-related postal designs, did the final-approved artwork for the dual hand stamps.

Bob M

Posts: 1367
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 04-15-2013 02:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here's a rare STS-71 crew signed "crew patch" cover signed by all ten from Houston collector Chris Nicolosi. Because of Norm Thagard's reluctance/refusal after the flight to sign STS-71 covers that were signed by the others, this cover is of extreme rarity. But covers signed by the seven launch/ascent crew members, without Thagard's signature, are not of special rarity.

After refusing on two occasions to sign this cover in person, years later at the November 2012 ASF astronaut event at KSC, Thagard did finally agree, although very reluctantly. And note the "To Chris" inscription that he insisted on adding for identification purposes.

Below is an account of this cover's signing illustrating the difficulty and the efforts required sometimes to have our crew signed covers completed.

  • Gibson, Precourt, Harbaugh, Dunbar and Baker signed in person at the STS-71 crew return at Ellington Field in 1995

  • Dezhurov signed in person at a Russian Festival event in Nassau Bay, TX, a while after the flight

  • Solovyev, Strekalov and Budarin signed thru the mail from Star City, Russia

  • And finally, 17 years after the first autographs were applied in 1995, Thagard agreed to sign and complete this rare STS-71 crew patch cover.

All times are CT (US)

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