At least one young boy is more interested in getting a letter to Mars than the North Pole this holiday season, but the UK's Royal Mail and NASA collaborated to deliver the news that dropping an old-school line to the Red Planet might be beyond the spending power of his allowance.
Five-year-old Oliver Giddings wrote to Royal Mail with a query about the amount of postage that would be required to deliver a letter to Mars. The 499-year-old postal service consulted with NASA on the cost of launching a letter of normal weight and getting it to the planet's surface, based on the agency's last delivery.
NASA responded that its "last visit to Mars, carrying the Curiosity rover, cost about $700m," Senior Customer Advisor Andrew Smout wrote in his reply to Giddings, according to AFP. "Based on how much the spaceship weighed compared to how much it costs to get to Mars, they said that something weighing up to 100 grams would cost them approximately $18,000 to fly to Mars." Converted, that's about £11,945 or AU$24,770.
For the record, that's the cost of about 18,000 first class stamps in the UK, and over 36,000 US stamps.
Perhaps somebody should have told young Oliver about how we like to talk about NASA doing things more slowly and more expensively than other outfits. I'll bet Elon Musk would love to get that letter to Mars in half the time, let's just hope it doesn't wind up on a mission that involves nuking the Red Planet like he's joked about (he was joking, right?).