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Last Updated: Friday, 25 April, 2003, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
Russia to offer space mail
For as little as $20,000, you could soon have a letter sent to a new "post office" aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and back care of the Russian space agency.

Russia's Soyuz spacecraft
No postal sacks have been sighted around the Soyuz so far
Having suspended its lucrative space tourism service after the Columbia disaster, the cash-strapped agency has now turned to selling postage stamps, the Interfax news agency reports.

The price of a space mail stamp - between $20,000 and $30,000 - might sound rather steep but space work was a costly business, its press secretary said.

All proceeds from the stamp sales would be ploughed back into space exploration, Sergey Gorbunov told Interfax.

Space tourists such as Californian financier Dennis Tito paid Rosaviakosmos $20m for their ventures into orbit but that service was halted in February when the suspension of US shuttle flights left Russia the only International Space Station (ISS) partner capable of still sending spacecraft to the station.

All available seats on Soyuz rockets now have to be allocated to professional spacemen and women.

A special firm is being set up to sell the new stamps.

Anyone wishing to have a letter franked on the space station for rather more than the cost of a first-class stamp might bear in mind some overheads cited by the Russians:

  • Delivery of one kilo of cargo to the ISS: $10-20,000
  • Return of one kilo from the ISS to Earth: $60,000
  • Cost of one hour's work by the crew aboard the ISS: $18-19,000
Rosaviakosmos has not revealed whether it will be delivering on Saturday, when the next crewed Russian rocket is due to take off for the ISS from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

Russia suspends 'space tourism'
03 Feb 03  |  Europe
Crew readies for ISS flight
21 Apr 03  |  Science/Nature
Russia may boost space station role
12 Apr 03  |  Science/Nature
Can Russia fulfil space role?
03 Feb 03  |  Europe
Astronauts venture outside station
09 Apr 03  |  Science/Nature

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