When space tourism really takes off, PayPal wants to be ready. After all, you’ll need some way to pay for your zero-g hotel, those out-of-this-world meals and other extraterrestrial purchases. Last week, the company said it has a team of space architects and researchers working with the SETI Institute on a payment system for outer space.
“There are lots of important questions that the industry needs to answer,” PayPal President David told the Associated Press. “There are regulatory and technical issues, along with safety and even what cross-border trade will look like when there are not a lot of borders. We feel that it’s important for us to start the conversation and find answers. We don’t have that much time.”
One thing is clear: We won’t be using cash in orbit.
In space, national borders don’t exist, nor do laws recognizing sovereignty or varying currencies. The payment system must operate far above today’s wireless networks – and without gravity.
The project, called PayPal Galactic, also involves the Los-Angeles based nonprofit Space Tourism Society and former astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
“This is not total fantasy at this point,” Anuj Nayar, senior director of communications and social media at PayPal, told SiliconValley.com. “In five to 10 years people are going to be out there and needing these services.”
Why the pressure to develop a payment system? A couple of examples: John Spencer, founder and president of the Space Tourism Society, reportedly is building a “space yacht” that will orbit Earth as a sort of waterless cruise ship. Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic plans to launch its initial commercial tourism flight at Christmas. (Such flights, though, would be reserved for the uber-wealthy. Each seat is said to require a $250,000 deposit.)