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Author Topic:   Space Cover 423: STS-8 space cover flight
Bob M

Posts: 1692
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 06-24-2017 08:14 AM     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 423 (June 25, 2017)

Space Cover #423: STS-8: The Space Cover Flight

It was a dark and rainy night, on August 30, 1983, when Space Shuttle Challenger loudly lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, with a five-person crew aboard. Also aboard were 260,899 specially prepared covers stored in the cargo bay, plus another 1,001 covers carried in the crew cabin.

These 261,900 covers were aboard Challenger during its six-day flight, with Challenger and its philatelic contents landing safely at Edwards AFB, CA, on September 5, after completing 98 orbits of the earth. After required processing of the philatelic cargo by NASA and the US Postal Service, these flown covers were put on sale (for $15.35) so everyone interested could own something flown in space on the Space Shuttle.

Certainly the large majority of space cover collectors own at least one of these Challenger flown covers and many of us tried to have some signed by the crew. Four of the five crew members were eventually cooperative about signing these covers (see the letter below), but one crew member steadfastly refused to sign and consequently, it's believed that no cargo-stored covers exist signed by the entire five-person crew.

Space Cover collector-servicer extraordnaire, Ken Havekotte, was very active regarding the STS-8 flight and created a number of extra-special covers marking the STS-8 flight, including some affixed with the large $9.35 Express Mail stamps like those used on all the flown covers.

The top cover above is a rare cover canceled for the STS-8 launch and then flown to Houston for another launch-day cancel, then canceled again at Houston (Mission Control) the next day for the Insat-1B satellite deployment, and finally at Edwards AFB for Challenger's landing. Only ten such covers were done.

The bottom cover above was canceled first at KSC for the First Day of Issue of the $9.35 Express Mail stamp and then canceled again at KSC for the STS-8 launch and then at EAFB for Challenger's landing.

The cover at the top is one of the 260,899 flown cargo bay covers and is signed by four of the five crew members (with Truly's signature in person). Below it is a standard unflown STS-8 "patch" cover and signed by the five crew members.

This December 1983-dated letter from Dan Brandenstein informs a collector that the crew decided not to sign any of the flown covers because of their large numbers and commercial value and returned the flown cover unsigned — while all five crew members kindly signed the STS-8 unflown cover that was also enclosed. However, their decision changed later and four of the five did start signing the flown covers.

These STS-8 flown covers are extra special to me, as I was fortunate to be at KSC, at the News Media/Press Site, on that rainy night and saw Challenger, with three of the covers on board I now own, take off on its 2.5 million mile trip.


Posts: 252
From: Boston, Mass.
Registered: Jun 2005

posted 06-24-2017 03:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NAAmodel#240   Click Here to Email NAAmodel#240     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bob, a timely post. At the first APS Summer Session on Astrophilately on Monday students will be receiving the USPS folder with the STS-8 flown cover. Keep up the great work.


Posts: 1252
From: Staten Island, New York USA
Registered: Nov 2007

posted 07-05-2017 08:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Two points regarding this cover:
  • Dr. Bill Thornton still refuses to sign any STS-8 flown covers, either with just his name or as a completion (with the late Dale Gardner included, making it very rare) or with the three other surviving crew members

  • Ironically, the preparation and sale of these covers prompted the Apollo 15 crew to petition NASA to release the infamous "Sieger" moon-flown covers that were confiscated from them in 1971, arguing since this was a commercial venture carried out for profit by the US government, there was a double standard in regards to the Apollo 15 covers sold on their behalf.

Ken Havekotte

Posts: 2622
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 07-05-2017 09:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Good points made and I didn't know that Dr. Thornton still refuses to sign any of the flown shuttle Challenger NASA/USPS covers. But just for the record though, the flown Apollo 15 Sieger lunar covers were not confiscated by the government until after the Apollo 16 flight in 1972.


Posts: 255
From: Raleigh, NC USA
Registered: Aug 2017

posted 01-19-2018 03:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for denali414   Click Here to Email denali414     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just received an STS-8 cover and wondered the story behind it and how many were flown — 250K+, wow that is a lot of space taken up.

Mine came in a nice 8x11 foldout with the three cancellations and the extra "Space Mail Orbited Via STS-8." No. 189,501.

Thanks for the post and information!


Posts: 106
From: UK
Registered: Aug 2013

posted 02-28-2018 02:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 18blue78     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've just picked up one of these STS-8 covers myself. They are a great way to add flown items to a collection.


Posts: 38
From: Germany
Registered: Aug 2009

posted 07-05-2018 12:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jarnoparoni   Click Here to Email Jarnoparoni     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have heard that not all covers from STS-8 were flown. Mine has the number 216496. Do you think mine was on board at STS-8? It was nice for me to know.

Editor's note: Threads merged.

1202 Alarm

Posts: 354
From: Geneva, Switzerland
Registered: Nov 2003

posted 07-05-2018 01:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 1202 Alarm     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
May I say that we had another thread on this: Space Cover of the Week 91 (January 9, 2011).

Initiated years before this one, it goes much deeper on details with links and pdfs, the serial numbers of the flown/unflown covers and their history.


Posts: 562
From: New York, NY USA
Registered: Oct 2010

posted 07-08-2018 10:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM1   Click Here to Email LM1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In 1984 the USPS released a 250-page list of UNFLOWN STS-8 covers. Several years ago I scanned & formatted every page of this list. I added a photo of the folder, the crew and a photo of an STS-8 cover.
The total file is 486MB long. I originally copied the list to a disc. However, now with modern high capacity computers this file can be transmitted to everyone.
Therefore, I will send this file to anyone who wants it.
Just list your E-mail address on this thread and I will try to transmit the file to you. I have never done this before, so I hope that it works. If you would rather have me mail the CD you will have to contact me at because it will cost $3 to ship it by mail.
Bill York

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