On 20 July 1969, two Americans, Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, were the first people to set foot on another celestial body, the moon, ‘for all mankind’ as it says on the plaque on the Lunar Module Eagle. The Apollo 11mission included a third man, Mike Collins, who stayed behind in the spacecraft Columbia, orbiting the moon and waiting to collect his colleagues so they could all return to Earth together. The dangerous voyage was a complete success, and a remarkable historical milestone.
In 1961, President Kennedy convinced Congress to “...put a man on the moon before the decade was over”. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) accepted the challenge, turning immediately to the most outstanding international specialists in various fields of science, as demanded by a feat of this magnitude.
The complexity of the flights of the Apollo Programme, and the safety of its crewmembers, demanded instant communication between the spacecraft and the control centre back on Earth. Here Spain was a major contributor through the Spanish National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA), which provided monitoring and control stations in Fresnedillas and Robledo (Madrid), and Maspalomas (Gran Canaria). Spanish technicians, shoulder to shoulder with the Americans, constantly monitored the vital signs of the astronauts, and processed the avalanche of data that were being received from the Moon, while transmitting numerous instructions to correct their course and specify the place and time of the Moon landing. Not without merit, this irreplaceable support was called “The vital link”.
At the iconic moment of the Moon landing, the Fresnedillas station (Madrid Apollo, in NASA’s technical jargon) and its men had the responsibility and the honour of directly helping crew members Armstrong and Aldrin and the descent of the Eagle. The words of Armstrong: “The Eagle has landed,” were celebrated first in Fresnedillas before being heard in Houston.
Armstrong's first hesitant steps left their prints on the lunar surface; the culmination of the greatest collective feat ever achieved by mankind, which Spain and a group of Spaniards helped make possible. This was confirmed publicly by Armstrong: “Without the vital communications between the Apollo 11 and the Madrid Apollo station... our moon landing would not have been possible.”
The issue is presented as a triptych mini sheet that when closed depicts two sections of the Moon and an antenna, framing the stamp. On the stamp itself is a chalcography illustration of Aldrin on the surface of the moon, with the Earth as seen from the Moon in the background. When the mini sheet is opened up we see the Lunar Module “Eagle” on the moon and a flight control station, to pay tribute not only to those who landed on the Moon but also those who made this feat possible on the Earth, and highlighting Spain’s contribution. Cold foil is used throughout the triptych, giving it a metallic appearance reminiscent of the spacesuits and material used in space expeditions. This issue also includes Augmented Reality.