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Postage stamps celebrate the planet

Click through imagery of our planet as seen from above in the U.S. Postal Service's "Earthscapes" stamp set.


The only problem with putting out a set of stamps that celebrate America's landscapes, as seen from above, is that the postage-stamp size hardly does justice to the aerial vistas. That's why we're giving you the "Earthscapes" imagery in slideshow form.

The 15-stamp set, which features pictures from aerial photographers and Earth-orbiting satellites, is available starting today from the U.S. Postal Service. The "Forever" stamps had their official unveiling at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

"Once you've seen the world from above, you never look at it quite the same way again," Joseph Corbett, the Postal Service's chief financial officer and executive vice president, was quoted as saying in a NASA news release about the kickoff. "That's why the Postal Service is proud to offer these Earthscapes stamps, which invite us to take a bird's-eye view of the land we all share."


Two of the images are from the Landsat 7 satellite, and one comes from GeoEye's Ikonos satellite. The other 12 were taken by aerial photographers. One photographer, 81-year-old Jim Wark, took five of the photos, showing Utah's Castle Butte, a railroad roundhouse in Pennsylvania, a barge operation in Houston, a skyscraper in Manhattan and a geothermal spring in Yellowstone.

Wark spends hours in his plane looking for great shots. "I'm looking for the pictures that the other guy doesn't have," Shutterbug magazine quoted Wark as saying.

The Landsat images serve as a fitting way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first Landsat launch. "NASA has been at the forefront of looking at Earth from the unique vantage point in space," Chris Scolese, director of Goddard Space Flight Center, said at today's ceremony. In case you're not content with just 15 pictures, here are more long-range views of Earth worth clicking through:


Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with Cosmic Log as well as NBCNews.com's other stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.