21 Sep

PayPal Galactic will help people buy stuff in space

first_imgWhen you’re in space and you need to buy something, how do you pay for it? That might sound like a ridiculous question right now given the lack of businesses in space and the massive amount of support each space traveler has, but this situation is about to change. In the coming months — yes months, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo is supposed to fly on December 25th — space tourism goes from a dream to a reality. At that point individual citizens will be taking private flights into space, where they will likely need some way of purchasing Dramamine, pictures of themselves in front of the Blue Marble, and all forms of rehydrated food.How will the world’s cutting edge travelers pay? The simple answer is that no one knows, but PayPal wants to start a conversation about the topic. Sure, someone could just take a wireless credit card reader into space and then handle their transactions — the ISS has a more-than-adequate 10Mbps down/3Mbps up connection — but Paypal is looking for a modern solution to this thoroughly modern problem. Their initiative to answer the question of space payments is PayPal Galactic.PayPal Galactic is intended to address the problem of “universal space payments,” which implies a larger solution than transactions that are tethered in some way to the Earth. Missions to Mars and the needs of “astro-tourists” were specifically cited, and Galactic spokesperson Buzz Aldrin agrees with PayPal President David Marcus that cash is not a viable option in the depths of space. Other involved parties include the SETI Institute, the Silicon Valley Space Center, and the Space Tourism Society.While payments from one person to another in space seem like the obvious goal here, PayPal also noted that making a payment from space back to Earth is an issue as well. The company said that, “Astronauts inhabiting space stations today still need to pay for life’s necessities — from their bills back on Earth to their entertainment, like music and e-books, while in space.” This seems like a less pressing issue given the fact that we’ve been solving that problem for 45 or so years, but as more people travel to space — specifically people without support organizations — hurdles will arise. With an internet connection and a minimal amount of bandwidth you could just use a credit card or Bitcoin to pay for something, regardless of where you are located, but that’s a limited solution given potential problems with jurisdiction (say, in the case of fraud), customer support, taxation, and government regulation.Right now Galactic is nothing more than a conversation between interested parties — it’s not a consortium or proposed standard or anything like that. PayPal’s current goal is to simply raise awareness about the lack of a proper solution for making non-terrestrial payments. The company freely admits that they don’t have all the answers, but they want to start finding solutions.Interestingly, PayPal’s Senior Director of PR told me that PayPal co-founder and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has no involvement in Galactic. Virgin Galactic (despite the similarity in names), NASA, the ESA, and other prominent space organizations haven’t gotten involved either.PayPal Galactic might not be necessary just yet, but it will lead to some interesting questions if it’s taken seriously. It seems unlikely that it would fall to a private corporation to decide on a standard for space payments, though the 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (commonly known as the Moon Treaty) makes no specific mentions of payments, currency, or the regulation of commerce outside of the Earth’s orbit. If anyone, I suppose this would fall under the jurisdiction of the Office of Space Commercialization, which is part of NOAA, and the wider purview of the US Department of Commerce. Of course, if this just ends up being a way to facilitate payments and not, say, a new unit of currency — like the ill-fated Quasi Universal Intergalactic Denomination — such oversight would not be necessary.The program is being officially announced today at noon (EDT). At that point more information will be made available at paypal-galactic.com.last_img read more