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For art director Antonio Alcalá, it took time to find a direction for the OSIRIS-REx stamp, which aimed to depict the NASA mission to study and map the asteroid Bennu.

Conversations with NASA staff early in the design process revealed the mission had five important milestones. The Postal Service planned the stamp issuance around the final milestone — when a sample of the asteroid’s surface would be returned to Earth — and Alcalá chose to commemorate that moment on the stamp itself. “Then, knowing that a single milestone couldn’t communicate the whole mission,” Alcalá explained, “I created a selvage design showing the first four.” 

An additional design challenge was the scale of the spacecraft itself. “We needed to make the capsule large enough so that people could see it clearly on the stamp. At the same time, the parachute deployment would be much higher and so much larger than the capsule itself. Trying to capture all those elements in the stamp, as well as a sense of the landscape that it would be returning to, was a bit complicated,” Alcalá recalled.

Alcalá worked closely with NASA to ensure his concepts depicted the spacecraft and mission accurately. Then, he set out to find an illustrator. The stamp design couldn’t be too fantastical because it needed to retain scientific integrity. “At the same time, we were looking for something that might give it a little something extra,” Alcalá added. He brought illustrator Alan Dingman into the project — a natural choice given his compelling art for science-fiction book covers.  

The stamp and selvage art ultimately work together to convey the magnitude and importance of the OSIRIS-REx mission. Alcalá remarked, “It’s an honor to be able to commemorate NASA’s work with a stamp pane that helps the American public understand the agency’s amazing accomplishments.”

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