ESA astronaut André Kuipers uses PostNL to send Emma world's first postcard from space

Birthday card for Emma who suffers from Maroteaux-Lamy syndrome

The Hague / Noordwijk / Badhoevedorp – ESA astronaut André Kuipers has sent the world's first ever postcard from space using PostNL's KaartWereld.nl. André Kuipers sent Emma's card from the International Space Station (ISS), in orbit 400 kilometres above the Earth, to celebrate her eleventh birthday. On the postcard, which features a photo André took himself from the ISS, he wishes Emma a happy birthday. Emma suffers from Maroteaux-Lamy syndrome, or MPS VI, a rare chronic degenerative disease.

On the card André used a photo showing himself waving to Emma from the ISS' Cupola module with a clear view of the Earth. He writes to Emma: "Hello Emma, happy birthday to you. It is a very special feeling to be celebrating your birthday here in space and also very extraordinary to be able to send you the first postcard from space. I have taken a picture for you from the ISS space station, such a beautiful view of our fragile planet. Shall we meet up at ESA in Noordwijk when I'm back on Earth? Greetings from the ISS, André".

André Kuipers is an ambassador for the WE Foundation, a Dutch organisation that aims to boost awareness of metabolic diseases, such as Maroteaux-Lamy syndrome, and raise funds for much needed research into alternative treatments for this rare disease. Metabolic diseases affect children from a young age and manifest themselves in many ways, in the case of Maroteaux-Lamy restricting growth and the mobility of arms and legs. The illness limits children's life expectancy and its rarity limits research into treatments due to lack of funding. With the help of André Kuipers, the WE Foundation wants to increase awareness and stimulate scientific research so that children with metabolic diseases can be cured in the future.

André Kuipers sent the first postcard from space using KaartWereld.nl. PostNL's online KaartWereld service enables you to design greetings cards, regardless of your location, using a smartphone, tablet or www.kaartwereld.nl and have them sent by post. The photo André took of himself was uploaded in a few short and easy steps. His personal message and the address were then added before sending the card electronically to a production centre. Cards created before 18.00 are delivered the next day.

André's presence on the ISS inaugurates a new decade of optimal utilisation to bring the benefits of space science, technology and education back to Earth. With less time to be spent on assembly tasks, the crew hours available for science during the PromISSe mission will be significantly increased. During the 148-day mission he will take part in around 30 ESA and 20 international experiments covering a range of disciplines: human research, fluid physics, materials science, radiation and solar research, biology and technology demonstrations. Countermeasures for bone loss, the study of headaches in space and mapping the radiation environment inside the Station are among the experiments related to human exploration. Science activities will be transmitted from space to classrooms across Europe with in-orbit demonstrations of experiments on convection and wet foam formation.

Children suffering from MPS VI are missing an enzyme that breaks down a complex sugar and causes deformation of the skeletal system and internal organs of children. The resulting excessive build up of these sugars causes widespread symptoms that often emerge during infancy and childhood. By age 10 children have developed a shortened trunk, crouched stance and restricted joint movement. An enzyme replacement therapy, Naglazyme, was tested on patients with MPS VI and was successful in that it improved growth and joint movement. New research initiatives are being funded through the WE Foundation, including research by the Amsterdam Medical Center into a new cure for children with MPS IV and VI. Supporting the WE Foundation can make the difference and save children's lives.