American exploration continued with outer space as the ‘last frontier.’ The ‘space race’ began in 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the first human-made satellite, Sputnik, into orbit around the Earth. In response, the United States established the National Aeronautics and Space Association (NASA) to conduct all “non-military” action in space. Project Mercury, initiated in 1958, began NASA’s journey into space. Subsequently, Project Gemini was created to explore the possibility of a manned mission to the moon. The first Gemini flight with astronauts on board, Gemini 3, was flown by Gus Grissom and John Young on March 23, 1965. The ten Gemini missions proved that long-duration human space flight was possible.
The 5-cent Accomplishments In Space commemorative stamps, issued September 29, 1967, depict a space-walking astronaut linked to a Gemini capsule. The issue itself, the first two-stamp single design ever released by the United States, depicts the spacewalk successfully completed during Project Gemini. This stamp issue was intended to show constructive aspects of the space program and was not meant to portray any astronaut specifically. Unfortunately, controversy accompanied the release of this stamp. The announcement of the Space Accomplishments stamp issue came right after the tragedy of Apollo 1, in which astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger B. Chaffee were killed in a fire during a test and training exercise, dealing a hard blow to the space program.