Space Payments: PayPal Galactic Aims for Infinity and Beyond

What's in your moon-purse?

  • Share
  • Read Later
PayPal / YouTube

No one owns the Moon, or for that matter, Mars, so what happens when people start dropping hotels, hipster cafes, mega-malls, neon-lit casinos and Baby Gaps on these cosmic spinning spheroids like some crazy real-life version of SimSolarSystem? Think about money and how you might spend it, because it doesn’t matter where you arrive from, there’s that eensy-weensy problem of how to pay for drinks and food and chintzy souvenirs when you’re in legal limbo, turf-wise.

More to the point, what do you use to pay? Rubles? Dollars? Renminbi? Star Trek kinda-sorta-but-not-really money? Moon rings?

Wouldn’t you know it, PayPal has a solution, or at least an idea for a solution, jumping the gun by who knows how many years (the company claims half a decade to a decade) to ensure you’ll have a way to pay, doubtless involving PayPal, if you’re ever space-tripping and feel the urge to splurge. 


It sounds like a marketing stunt to get people thinking and talking about PayPal, eBay’s international e-commerce arm (on some level that’s exactly what it is), but it’s also not so out there. Space tourism is a thing: A handful of (extremely wealthy) individuals have paid tens of millions of dollars to orbit the planet to date, and many more have paid considerably less to embark on so-called “edge of space” trips (in the 13 miles above sea level range); plans for suborbital flights on ships like Virgin’s Galactic have been in the offing for years, and at some point it’s all but certain we’ll see entrepreneurs setting up vacation spots on the Moon, Mars and beyond.

PayPal Galactic isn’t an actual service you can use right now, say you’re holding a ticket to the International Space Station next week (and, you know, they had bona fide snack machines, which I’m pretty sure they don’t). It’s rather an initiative, jointly launched with the SETI Institute and the Space Tourism Society, to start thinking about out how we might buy and sell stuff when we eventually do engage in commerce (or e-commerce, or whatever we’re calling it by that point) in outer space. Interestingly, moon-walker Buzz Aldrin seems to be involved as well.

Among the many questions PayPal and its partners intend to tackle: how to regulate commerce, as well as what sort of currency should be used (and no, it probably won’t be Space Bucks, Galactic CreditsAltairian Dollars or the quasi universal intergalactic denomination, though I’ll put in a plug here for Buckazoid!).

“There are lots of important questions that the industry needs to answer,” PayPal president David Marcus 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.” Marcus argues the time to figure this stuff out is now, too, adding, “We don’t have that much time.”

“This is not total fantasy at this point,” said PayPal’s Anuj Nayar, senior director of communications and social media (via Mercury News). “In five to 10 years people are going to be out there and needing these services.”

Did I mention space hotels? They’re in the works as well, including one by Russia-based Orbital Technologies that’ll include four relatively spartan rooms and run about $984,000 for a five day stay. The upsides: you’ll whip around the planet once every 90 minutes and enjoy 16 sunsets and sunrises daily — plenty of reason to have a cosmic payment service at the ready to cover all those celebratory bottles of Dom Perignon Vintage 1995 White Gold Jeroboam you’ll be popping as you rocket through the thermosphere. YOLO, after all.