“Space: the final frontier……”, for the Trekkies, the opening line evokes a sense of excitement and anticipation in another episode of the heroic exploits of the crew of the starship Enterprise…. However, Malaysian philatelists’ foray into the final frontier only started in 1970, four years after the iconic introductory lines came on TV.
This article explores the journey into the cosmos in Malaysian philately. I have also included philatelic items with images of space into this write-up. Sit back and enjoy the lift off!
Let’s take a drive to the East Coast, more precisely to Beserah, Kuantan, Pahang. You will surely glimpse the prominent satellite station amongst the coconut trees from the road.
The commissioning of the Satellite Communications Earth Station, Kuantan, Pahang, heralds Malaysia’s entry into the Space Age. ……..the Station will link Malaysia via the Indian Ocean Intelsat III Satellite, initially with India, Indonesia, United Kingdom, East and West Pakistan, Japan and Australia. Reference: Information Brochure, Earth Satellite Station stamp issue, Jabatan Perkhidmatan Pos.
The few opening lines in the brochure was a modest introduction to the station. Little did we know that our country will soon play an important part in the exploration of space and the support of Apollo, Skylab and Titan missions!
06 April 1970: Satellite Earth Station
Here are some photographs taken prior to the opening.
If you look closely on the photograph on the right, you will be able to see the banner and tables set up for the opening ceremony.
The satellite station was put to good use even internationally. It was involved in the tracking of some major space launches.
31 January 1971: Apollo 14 Tracking Support
The earliest known tracking cover was on 31 January to commemorate the tracking support provided by the station to Apollo 16. The said cover was postmarked in Kuantan and autographed by the Station Manager. No copyright free image available to share.
17 April 1972: Apollo 16 Tracking Support
The earliest cover to commemorate the tracking support provided by the station was to Apollo 16. Apollo 16 was launched on 16 April 1972 which is 17 April 1972 in Malaysia. This cover was signed by the Station Manager.
06 December 1972: Apollo 17 Tracking Support
This cover commemorates the tracking support to Apollo 17. Apollo 17 was launched on 07 December 1972 which is 08 December 1972 in Malaysia. This cover was signed by the Station Manager.
15 May 1973: Skylab Tracking Support
The station was even involved with the tracking support to Skylab! Skylab was launched on 14 May 1973 making it 15 May 1973 in Malaysia. The cover was signed by the Station Manager. There seems to be an error on the private cancel applied on the cover. This mission is supposed to be an unmanned mission. However the list of names from Skylab 2 was put on the cover! Skylab 2 was only launched on 25 May 1973.
20 September 1973: Skylab 3 Tracking Support
This cover commemorates the tracking support provided to Skylab 3. Skylab returned to Earth on 25 September 1973 thus this cover was made towards the end of the mission. This cover was signed by the Station Manager.
11 November 1973: Titan III D Tracking Support
This cover should be referring to the Titan III D launch support. Titan III D was launched on 10 November 1973 making it 11 November 1973 in Malaysia. The cover was signed by the Station Manager.
17 November 1973: Skylab 4 Tracking Support
This cover commemorates the tracking support provided to Skylab 4. Skylab 4 was launched on 16 November 1973 making it 17 November 1973 in Malaysia. The cover was signed by the Station Manager.
The Malaysia tracking commemorative covers came to an abrupt end. However our space age has barely begun.
20 September 1979, Geneva: TELECOM79 was initially to be held at the Palais des Expositions, but the large number of exhibitors participating in the event was so large and the areas reserved so extensive, that ITU was obliged to expand the Exhibition and use the nearby multipurpose Halle des Vernets.
Malaysia issued a telecommunication themed set to commemorate the event. The stamp includes the Satellite Earth Station and of course a satellite.
20 September 1979: 3rd World Telecommunication Exhibition Geneva 1979
Satellites and Satellite Earth Station was again featured prominently in the Decade of Transportation and Communication in 1987.
26 October 1987: Decade of Transportation and Communication for Asia and Pacific
The 14th Commonwealth Forestry Conference was held in Kuala Lumpur. A set of stamps and later on an overprint set of stamps were released. The 30 sen stamp featured a background of space and Earth. I guess for die-hard space themed collectors, this might as well be in the collection.
13 September 1993: 14th Commonwealth Forestry Conference
01 October 1993: Bangkok 1993 (overprint)
Malaysia finally got her own Planetarium in 1993. The Planetarium was only officiated on 07 February 1994!
07 February 1994: National Planetarium
A local aerogramme was introduced in 1994 called DOMAIL. The prepaid image featured the earth station.
08 February 1994: Domestic Lettermail (DOMAIL)
Malaysia finally put a satellite into space in January 1996 with MEASAT 1. By November 1996, the second satellite called MEASAT 2 (pretty obvious!) was put into space! MEASAT is an acronym for Malaysia East Asia Satellite.
13 January 1996: MEASAT
Trivia: MEASAT 1 was repositioned to provide service to the African continent and ended it service as AFRICASAT-1!
Astronomy is a subset of the wider study of science. As such the National Science Centre has a section on astronomy. The National Science Centre was opened on 29 November 1996.
29 November 1996: National Science Centre
The MEASAT stamp was featured again (image on the Miniature Sheet) in the 50 Years of Organised Philately (MALPEX 97). An overprint was released for INDEPEX ’97.
09 September 1997: 50 Years of Organised Philately
15 December 1997: INDEPEX ’97 (overprint)
A Multimedia Super Corridor aerogramme featured MEASAT was released in 1999.
08 March 1999: Multimedia Super Corridor Aerogramme
The Prestamped Envelopes series issued for the World Post Day in 1999, envelope number 3 and number 9 featured the space theme.
09 October 1999: World Post Day
In December of 1999, MEASAT was again featured on the 30 sen stamp (image on the stamp) commemorating the 125 Years of UPU.
18 December 1999: 125 Years of UPU
It was little surprise that MEASAT would also be featured on the stamp number 18/20 of the Millennium series. Here are the covers that featured the stamp.
01 January 2000: Millennium Countdown
01 January 2000: Millennium Series 2
01 January 2000: Celebration Cover 18/20
This was followed up with the aspirations of the nations to head into the future perhaps hinting at space with the special book on A Tapestry of Our Nation. 2 special covers on Celebrate the Millennium was included with the book.
20 February 2000: Celebrate the Millennium
Meanwhile, putting a man in space was gaining traction.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1……
11 October 2007, The Star’s report carried the title “PM hopes space programme will fire interest in youths”
On 10 October 2007, Malaysia finally put the first astronaut in space. Dato’ Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor was the first Angkasawan. He returned to Earth on 21 October 2007. The National Angkasawan Programme was commemorated with a stamp issue only in 2008.
21 October 2008: National Angkasawan Programme
Here is a pair of FDCs autographed by Dato’ Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor.
Now that we have had a man in space perhaps it is also time to recognise the people who made it happen. The satellite stations and space programmes will not be achieved without the engineers. The next two issues will feature the earth station prominently again!
The Board of Engineers, Malaysia was established on 23 August 1972. A Prestamped Envelope was issued on 09 August 2002 to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Board.
09 August 2002: Board of Engineers Malaysia
5 years later, the Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM) celebrated the 50th Anniversary. IEM was formed on 01 May 1959.
20 April 2009: Engineering Excellence in Nation Building
The country’s aspiration for the space age was again reflected in the One Malaysia stamp issue. This time the astronaut and rocket were featured on the first stamp. The earth station was featured on the second stamp.
10 November 2010: One Malaysia
In the 150th Anniversary of ITU, the satellite and earth station were again featured! This seems to be the trend in telecommunications stamp issues.
17 May 2015: 150th Anniversary of ITU
This wraps up a space journey through 45 years of philately. Perhaps someday Malaysian philately will go to boldly go where Malaysian stamps have not gone before…… to space!
To infinity and beyond! The story continues……