Do you remember those space trading simulation type video games such as Freelancer, Privateer and Elite, where you can play a space merchant trading between the stars? Well, real life takes a step in that direction with payment provider PayPal‘s recent launch of PayPal Galactic, an initiative that may see universal space payments become a reality.
A collaboration between PayPal, the SETI Institute, Space Tourism Society and astronaut Buzz Aldrin (better known as the 2nd man to ever walk on the moon), PayPal Galactic aims to bring together leaders in the space industry to work on the big questions around the commercialization of space in order to prepare and support the future of space commerce. “As space tourism programs are opening space travel to ‘the rest of us’ this drives questions about the commercialization of space. We are launching PayPal Galactic, in conjunction with leaders in the scientific community, to increase public awareness of the important questions that need to be addressed,” says David Marcus, PayPal’s president.
Questions the program seeks to answer include:
- What will our standard currency look like in a truly cash-free interplanetary society?
- How will the banking systems have to adapt?
- How will risk and fraud management systems need to evolve?
- What regulations will we have to conform with?
- How will our customer support need to develop?
“We may not answer these questions today or even this year, but one thing is clear, we won’t be using cash in space. PayPal has already pushed payments into the Internet, onto phones and across terrestrial borders. We look forward to pushing payments from our world to the next, and beyond,” Marcus adds.
“Trips to Mars, the moon, even orbit will require we provide astronauts and astro-tourists with as many comforts from home as possible, including how to pay each other,” said astronaut and author Buzz Aldrin. “Whether it’s paying a bill, even helping a family member on Earth, we’ll need access to money. I think humans will reach Mars, and I would like to see it happen in my lifetime. When that happens I won’t be surprised if people use PayPal Galactic for the little things and the big ones.”
“PayPal and the SETI Institute are well-matched to work on PayPal Galactic because together we can create a recipe for innovation,” shares Jill Tarter, the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for the SETI Institute. “PayPal envisions exploring possibilities in space the way that we do, breaking boundaries to make real progress. When the SETI Institute succeeds in its exploration of the universe, and as we find our place among the stars, PayPal will be there to facilitate commerce, so people can get what they need, and want, to live outside of our planet.”
You may be surprised, but there’s already a need for a galactic payment system – astronauts inhabiting space stations do need to pay for life’s necessities, such as their bills back on Earth for entertainment like music and e-books while in space. That’s not all. “Within five to ten years the earliest types of ‘space hotels’ and orbital and lunar commerce will be operational and in need of a payment system,” concludes John Spencer, founder and president of the Space Tourism Society.
Maybe one day soon in the future we’d be able to pay to ship something from Mars back to Earth. And one only hopes there’s free shipping by Amazon, otherwise delivery fees may be, ahem, astronomical.