Ever tried to buy something, only to realize your wallet is sitting on your kitchen counter a billion miles away on another planet? No need to worry. PayPal has decided now is the perfect time to address that very serious problem. The online payment service is joining forces with the SETI Institute, a leader in the search for alien life in the universe, to create PayPal Galactic, a money transfer system that boldly goes where no money transfer system has gone before.
PayPal’s president David Marcus announced the initiative in a company blog post yesterday. He outlined a series of questions related to the commercialization of space and expressed his interest in making PayPal the first to address them and provide a way for people to pay from off-world. Lest we think this is premature, Marcus pointed out in his announcement that current astronauts on space stations need to pay their bills and download music and eBooks like the rest of us. Space tourists and commercial astronauts will also need a way to spend money, so PayPal might be stepping up right on time.
A live stream hosted by the SETI Institute took place today, featuring Marcus, SETI scientists Frank Drake and Margaret Race, Space Tourism Society founder John Spencer, and Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin. “PayPal is the favorite way to pay on Earth, and we want to make sure it is the favorite way to pay in space,” said Marcus during the event.
Neither Drake nor Race had much to say during the presentation about the specifics of PayPal’s role in the future of space travel, but thankfully John Spencer made enough out-there promises to make it interesting. “There will be orbital cruise lines, there will be orbital super-yachting and lunar yachting,” he said. “There will be races on the moon. And therefore, there will be a need for a lot more people of diverse backgrounds going off-world. And they will need PayPal Galactic to pay for services and goods.” I don’t know what orbital super-yachting is exactly, but he needs to get working on it, because it sounds amazing and it’s embarrassing that we’re going to have PayPal in space before we have orbital super-yachting.
Though he didn’t seem to have much to do with the initiative, Aldrin was his usual awesome self, whipping out a “I’m theRealBuzz” T-shirt to advertise his Twitter, shamelessly promoting his book and a potential TV series based on it, and then soberly talking about his heartfelt desire to see a permanent human presence on Mars in his lifetime. He eventually got around to acknowledging PayPal Galactic. “Whether it’s paying a bill or even helping a family member on Earth, we’ll need access to money,” the veteran astronaut said.
It takes between four and 24 minutes or so for transmissions to get from Mars to Earth, so I wouldn’t get your hopes up about winning any eBay auctions at the last second from another planet. On the flip side, if you’re an eBay seller and you see a PayPal Galactic user making bids, don’t offer free shipping unless you want to be on the hook for paying thousands of dollars per pound to launch your old lava lamp to someone’s orbital space yacht, assuming those get made while eBay is still a thing.
(via Ars Technica, image via Casey Reed/NASA)
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