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.