What did NASA contribute to the art world?

Paul Calle, Postage Stamp Artist

In 1962, Paul Calle was just another commercial artist. Then, NASA came calling. Calle was invited to be part of NASA's inaugural art program, along with seven other artists, including Norman Rockwell. Over the next decade, Calle was often at Cape Canaveral, watching launches and landings.

In 1969, Calle observed astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin as they ate breakfast, put on their spacesuits and completed all the other preparations for their Apollo 11 mission. Calle's resulting pen-and-ink sketches ended up on exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum. Several years later, he produced a large oil painting of Armstrong stepping on the moon.

But Calle is probably best-known for his work in a much smaller medium. The United States Postal Service was impressed with Calle's art and approached him several times over the years to create commemorative stamps. His first stab, in 1967, resulted in a pair of 5-cent stamps depicting astronaut Ed White making the first American spacewalk in 1965, just outside of the Gemini capsule. The stamps created a complete picture whether they were used as a pair or individually, which was a new concept in postal stamp design at the time.

Several years later, Calle became more widely known for producing a 10-cent stamp commemorating the Apollo 11 moon landing of 1969. The U.S. Postal Service later commissioned Calle and his stamp-artist son, Chris, to jointly design commemorative pieces for the 20th and 25th anniversaries of the moon landing.

Over the years, Calle also created stamps of other important people and objects, including General Douglas MacArthur, Robert Frost and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. When he died in 2010, he was considered one of America's top stamp artists.

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