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SPACE EXPLORATION. ANNIVERSARIES

Presence in extra-terrestrial space can cause strange manifestations, from distorted thinking to strange feelings of disorientation.

As he headed for the established area of the orbital flight, cosmonaut Gherman Titov had the impression that his body was rotating through the air. He began to feel this way as soon as the Vostok 2 spacecraft separated from the carrier rocket and became weightless. “I suddenly felt like I was going head over heels and then I was flying with my feet up”, he said later. In reality, there is no rotation – the feeling was simply an illusion, something similar to an experience outside the body.

For many astronauts, these sensations tend to disappear after a few days in space, but others suffer from disturbing feelings throughout their journey. “I knew I was standing … and yet I felt upside down, despite the fact that everything was normally oriented around me” – this is how an astronaut described his experience aboard the Spacelab space station.

Trying to illustrate the phenomenon of “spatial disorientation”, the graphics of the Space exploration. Anniversaries postage stamps issue, which will be introduced into circulation by Romfilatelia on May 14th, 2021, aims to induce the viewer as close as possible to the feeling of weightlessness felt by cosmonauts.

The postage stamps issue celebrates the 60th anniversary of man’s first flight into space (Yuri Gagarin, April 12th, 1961) and 40 years since the first space trip in which a Romanian cosmonaut – Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu – took part (May 14th, 1981).

Born on September 27th, 1952, in Brasov, Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu graduated in 1976 from the Polytechnic University of Bucharest, specializing in Aeronautical Engineering. In 1978, he was selected for the Intercosmos programme, a space flight training programme, and between May 14th and 22nd, 1981, he participated, along with the Russian cosmonaut Leonid Ivanovich Popov, in a space flight aboard the Soyuz 40 spacecraft and spent a week aboard the Salyut 6 Orbital Complex, conducting a series of scientific experiments.

The Romanian philately has repeatedly paid homage to this performance, several postage stamps issues being dedicated to the Romanian cosmonaut.

The first of these was introduced into circulation in May 1981. Entitled The Romanian-Soviet  Flight into the Space, it contained two stamps (depicting the Soyuz 40 spacecraft and the Salyut 6 Orbital Complex, respectively) and a perforated souvenir sheet, with the portraits of the two cosmonauts participating in the mission, Dumitru Prunariu and Leonid Popov.

An anniversary issue, which celebrated the 15th anniversary of Dumitru Prunariu’s space flight, was put into circulation in 1996, on the occasion of the ESPAMER ‘96 World Philatelic Exhibition in Seville (Spain).

Ten years later, in 2006, Romfilatelia celebrated the 25th anniversary of a Romanian’s first flight into the space, introducing a special type of postage stamps issue. On the souvenir sheet of the 1996 postage stamps issue, which illustrated the figure of cosmonaut Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu, an overprint was applied with gold folio on half of the print run and with silver folio on the other half.

In 2011, Romfilatelia marked the celebration of 50 years since the first human spaceflight and 30 years since the spaceflight in which Dumitru Prunariu participated, through the COSMOS 2011 postage stamps issue. The stamps featured the portraits of the heroes of these two events, cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Dumitru Prunariu.

10 years after the release of this issue, Romfilatelia associates again, in a postage stamps issue, the figures of the two participants in the spaceflight from 1981, in the Space exploration. Anniversaries postage stamps issue of this year, consisting of two stamps, a perforated souvenir sheet and with a “first day” cover.

The stamp with the face value of Lei 2.20 is dedicated to the first cosmonaut of mankind, Yuri Gagarin. He is depicted aboard the Vostok spacecraft with which he flew on April 12th, 1961. The silhouette of the Vostok spacecraft is in the background, and in the lower right corner, inside the 60 (years) Gagarin logo, the vintage insignia of the Vostok mission is visible.

The second stamp of the issue, with the face value of Lei 19.50, illustrates Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu in a cosmonaut suit, details from the technical plans of the Soiuz rocket and the 40th anniversary (Prunariu) logo.

The souvenir sheet of the postage stamps issue, with the face value of Lei 31.50, illustrates in a stylized manner the first Romanian cosmonaut, Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu, in a suggested state of weightlessness, floating aboard the Soyuz 40-Salyut 6-Soyuz T4 orbital complex, with his camera.

The technical drawing in the background reproduces details of the technical plans of the Soyuz rocket and of the Soyuz 40-Salyut 6-Soyuz T4 orbital complex, on board which the Romanian cosmonaut carried out his activity for 7 days, 20 hours, 41 minutes and 52 seconds. Along with the simulated perforation that suggests space orbits, one can find the official anniversary logo of the Romanian cosmonaut – 40 (years) Prunariu.

In addition to the compositional elements described above of each stamp, the borders of the minisheets depict the Earth seen at night from the space. In the lower right corner, thematic collectors will have the joy of finding the silhouette of the American STS-1 (Space Transportation System-1) Columbia spacecraft, which made its first flight 40 years ago on April 12th, 1981.

In the same spirit of “space disorientation”, knowing that “there is no up and down in the space”, the illustration of the “first day” cover of the postage stamps issue shows an astronaut during EVA (Extravehicular Activity), along with the two anniversary logos – 40 (years) Prunariu and 60 (years) Gagarin.

The image of the “first day” postmark of the postage stamps issue contains stylized space elements, the profile of a cosmonaut, a celestial body, cosmic orbits and the symbol of a rocket in the form of a space vector, an element often found in the logos of many space agencies.