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Space station postage rate: $20,000

Unofficial postmarks added to an envelope that was flown to the International Space Station in 2002. (
April 25, 2003 — Astrophilatelists take note: you can now send personal letters to the International Space Station to be canceled onboard with mission postmarks.

"The stamps will cost from $20,000 to $30,000," explained Rosaviakosmos spokesman Sergei Gorbunov.

If the postage rate sounds high, consider the expenses. According to Gorbunov, it costs $10,000 to $20,000 to deliver one kilogram of cargo to the station and $60,000 to return it to Earth. An estimated hour of cosmonaut labor adds $18,000 to $19,000.

Fifty postcards have been prepared to fly with the crew of Expedition 7 to the space station. U.S. astronaut Ed Lu and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko autographed ten of the cards to be canceled in space.

Each crew will carry a mission-specific postmark to use onboard the station.

Collectors can arrange for their mail to fly through a firm operated by the Russian Communications Ministry, said Gorbunov. Proceeds will directly benefit Russia's space exploration efforts.

Though this is the first official post office launched to the International Space Station, earlier station crews have had unofficial or personal postmarkers to cancel mail.

A similar postal service was operated by the cosmonauts living on the Russian Space Station Mir.

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